We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.
After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
I am not a good sailor and so try to avoid sailing on the sea whenever possible. When I have sailed, I have found that moment of not being able to see dry land in any direction rather frightening.
Paul is being transported, under-guard from Israel to Rome. The ship passes south of Cyprus then Crete. After Crete there is a bad storm lasting several days. As the storm drags on the crew, guards, and other passengers think all will be lost, but Paul sees it otherwise.
‘Stars at sea’ have always been seen as metaphors or pictures of what can happen to all of us in life. An eruption in family life, bad health and bereavement or loss of job, and home can often be seen as ‘storms at sea’. In these crisis moments we can feel lost in the dark and all alone. Paul’s word about ‘keeping up your courage’, and his experience of an angel stood by him during the dark night can speak to us when we are in the midst of a storm.
So here is a prayer for all of us who are not good sailors:
You are the storm calmer,
The sea walker,
You bring your light to our dark,
Your presence to our aloneness,
Your courage to our eruptions.
So, may you send your angel to stand by our side
In the dark night and grey day,
That we might never be lost.