When a moderate south wind began to blow, they thought they could achieve their purpose; so they weighed anchor and began to sail past Crete, close to the shore. But soon a violent wind, called the northeaster, rushed down from Crete. Since the ship was caught and could not be turned with its head to the wind, we gave way to it and were driven. By running under the lee of a small island called Cauda we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. After hoisting it up they took measures to undergird the ship; then, fearing that they would run on the Syrtis, they lowered the sea-anchor and so were driven. We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard, and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle overboard. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned. Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.” So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island.’ When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of Adria, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they took soundings and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they took soundings again and found fifteen fathoms. Fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. But when the sailors tried to escape from the ship and had lowered the boat into the sea, on the pretext of putting out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.’ Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat and set it adrift. Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.’ After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves. (We were in all two hundred and seventy-six persons in the ship.) After they had satisfied their hunger, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.
One of the many things I learned when we moved to Scotland was the hymn Will Your Anchor Hold? Not being a hymn I’d grown up with, I soon learned that it is popular both in Sunday worship and at funerals. The, to me, tricky tune is complemented by powerful words which use the image of being at sea in a storm as a metaphor for life. Today’s passage makes me think Paul would have enjoyed the hymn immensely.
Assured of the reliability of his vision Paul is not unduly bothered by the storm and gives leadership which the soldiers value and which seems to keep the passengers safe. Leadership often involves keeping calm when all around you are panicking. Leadership, in dangerous situations, often means being directive whilst, at other times, it might not. Leadership comes in many forms – but in today’s passage is unusual as it comes not from Paul’s position (the soldiers and sailors gave not a hoot about his training nor office) but from his calm assured presence; his charisma was such that folk listened to him.
What type of leadership do you respond well to?
What type of leadership do you offer in your life and in church? Does it command confidence or dischord?
How might Paul’s leadership on show here inspire you?
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life? When the clouds unfold their wings of strife When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain
Will your anchor drift or firm remain? We have an anchor that keeps the soul Steadfast and sure while the billows roll Fastened to the Rock which cannot move Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love
Priscilla J. Owens
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is the Minister for Digital Worship and attends the Peedie Kirk URC in Orkney.