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Speaking to the Soul: Saved at Sea

Speaking to the Soul: Saved at Sea

Week of Proper 23, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 119:1-24 (morning) // 12, 13, 14 (evening)

Jonah 1:17-2:10

Acts 27:9-26

Luke 9:1-17

In today’s story from Acts, things don’t turn out as badly as Paul said they would. He and his fellow travelers are late in starting their sea voyage, and seasonal weather conditions are turning dangerous. Paul believes they should stay put. Otherwise, “the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” Consequences will be grave if they set sail.

However, the majority of people ignore Paul. The ship’s pilot and owner have a different opinion, and so they decide to attempt the journey. Yet, as Paul predicted, they are soon at the mercy of violent winds. For days they survive through storms by changing directions, by throwing all of the cargo and tackle overboard, by undergirding the ship, and by waiting in starless darkness until “all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.”

It must have seemed like Paul was right. The cargo was lost, the ship would not survive, and their own lives would be lost as well. And Paul reminds everyone that he told them so: “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete.”

But Paul also revises his original prediction. Now, he tells everyone to take courage, for an angel of God has told him not to be afraid. Paul now believes that “there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.” As things turned out, Paul was right about the cargo and the ship, but wrong about people’s lives. They were not saved, not lost at sea.

Perhaps this isn’t the only occasion when Paul, or some tradition ascribed to Paul, will be wrong about what and who will be saved. Perhaps people will still find life just when they’ve abandoned hope of salvation. And I hope that Paul and his interpreters can discover greater joy in saying “you will live” and “I was wrong” than “you’ll be lost” and “I told you so.”

Lora Walsh blogs about the Daily Office readings at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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