When it was decided that we were to sail for Italy, they transferred Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. Embarking on a ship of Adramyttium that was about to set sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and allowed him to go to his friends to be cared for. Putting out to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. After we had sailed across the sea that is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind was against us, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Sailing past it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. Since much time had been lost and sailing was now dangerous, because even the Fast had already gone by, Paul advised them, saying, ‘Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.’ But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. Since the harbour was not suitable for spending the winter, the majority was in favour of putting to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, where they could spend the winter. It was a harbour of Crete, facing south-west and north-west.
Before moving to Orkney I really didn’t think much about wind – after all I slept through the Great Storm of October 1987 despite trees being uprooted in the park opposite where I then lived. Since moving, I’m always conscious of the wind – we live at the top of a hill. More than that, we know that strong winds disrupt the ferries and flights which secure our connections with both the Scottish mainland and our smaller isles. This greater awareness made me smile when I read of Paul’s difficulties in today’s passage and the repeated phrase “because the winds were against us.”
Political winds were against left wing policies at the last election yet Covid made the winds change direction as massive state invention was welcomed. The winds were against the idea of state intervention in the energy market, but they have changed direction and now the public seems to want significant change there too. The winds of opinion are against those of us who think there’s life in organised religion. Instead the quest for spirituality and meaning is often undertaken outwith the Church. The winds in the Church seem to suggest secularisation is dangerous despite the freedoms many of us enjoy because of it. Will those winds change?
One of the many challenges for contemporary Christians is to work out how to react to these changing winds. Are these winds the energy of the Holy Spirit pushing us to places we’d not otherwise go? The increasing secularisation of our society has made the Church think deeply about social issues; the King and Queen Consort are on their second marriages and society isn’t that bothered. The winds have changed profoundly.
We need to learn when to bend with the wind, when to change our plans to avoid them, as Paul and his companions had to, or when to hang on for dear life and see where we end up!
Eternal One, you blow through our lives and our world like a mighty wind, uprooting, powering, changing and sometimes destroying what is in your way. Give us grace to know when to bend, when to resist and when to hang on and see what happens! Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston, Minister for Digital Worship, Member of the Peedie Kirk in Orkney