I put on a nautical themed sweater today, partly because it was handy and partly because I wanted to warm enough for outdoor office hours this morning. As I put it on it occurred to me that it wasn’t very appropriate for the first day of fall. Nautical themes are definitely intended for spring, and in fact I purchased it a couple of years ago in the spring. That got me to wondering why nautical themes are reserved to the spring. I suspect it has to do with the fact that sailing weather really begins in the spring. By fall, most sailors are looking for safe harbor for their boats.
That then got me to thinking about Paul. (My mind really wanders in the early morning.) Paul found himself tied up quite a bit because of weather requirements related to sailing. Paul had offended the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem resulting in charges of sedition which were referred on to the Roman authorities. Because of his status as a Roman citizen Paul insisted he be tried in Rome. (Paul considered it an opportunity to preach Christianity to Caesar himself!) After several setbacks and a couple of years in jail Paul finally set sail in the fall of 59 AD from Caesarea (near the coast of the Holy Land) for Rome where he would stand trial before Caesar. The ship stopped at Sidon where the Centurion allowed Paul to get off the boat to greet the Christians there. The ship proceeded along the southern coast of present day Turkey where they stopped at the Harbor of Myra and boarded a grain ship from Egypt bound for Italy.
They tacked carefully westward and then sailed south to the southern shore of Crete. It was already late in the sailing season and Paul suggested they harbor for the winter in Fair Havens. But the centurion wanted to harbor in Phoenix. It was on the way to Phoenix that the ship encountered hurricane force winds and was sent careening toward Libya. After a wild 14 day ride, being blown across the Mediterranean the ship finally broke apart at a bay, now named for Paul, on the Isle of Malta.
In the spring Paul and company were finally able to get passage on a new ship and to continue their journey to Rome. They finally arrive in Italy and disembarked at Puteoli where they are greeted by the believers there. As they make their way to Rome, they continue to be greeted by Roman Christians who have come out to greet them. Finally at their destination, Paul was put under loose house arrest until Nero has time to review his case. We know he waited at least another two years in Rome and the book of Acts leaves off the story with Paul still waiting!
I was thinking today about how long Paul waited for the chance to complete his goal. He was determined to preach and defend the Christian cause to the emperor. Yet he was forced to wait and endure setback after setback. In the meantime, however, he did not just sit on his hands and stew in frustration. He encountered people. He preached the gospel. He encouraged faith and hope when there was none. He even converted the centurion who was his guard on the way to Rome. He lived each day of life that was given him and waited patiently for God to bring him to his final test of faith.
It seems to me many of us are waiting for a day when these darn Covid infection numbers will go down in our county. We are waiting for a vaccine. We are waiting for the Coronavirus to be gone and things to go back to the way they were… though I doubt everything will ever quite be the same. As we wait, I hope we are living our lives, sharing our faith, offering hope and trusting in God. Lots of people have waited for lots of important things before us, and God was faithful. God is faithful still.
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