Scripture: Acts 27:27-44
Key verse: (44b) And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
Reflection: Have you ever realized that many churches are built to resemble a ship? Look up at the ceiling and see how the curves are like the bottom of a large boat. Early Christian believers connected the church with the story of Noah’s ark. The church is the gathering of those being saved by God.
Today’s passage is near the end of the book of Acts, the story of the early church and the spread of the gospel to new people and places. In this story, Paul was under arrest and placed on a ship bound for Rome. The ship encountered strong difficult winds and the journey slowed. Paul counseled his centurion guard that they should stop but the centurion listened to the pilot and continued the voyage. Eventually a strong storm pounded the ship and the crew threw cargo overboard. After fourteen days of drifting in stormy waters, the sailors suspected that they were near land. The sailors tried to escape by lowering a small boat down into the water but Paul called for them all to stay together. Paul led them in a meal, which seems very much like the sacrament of communion. The next morning the sailors see the shore and try to sail to dry land, but the ship ran aground and broke into pieces. All of the people on the boat jumped overboard, some swimming and others floating on planks. Everyone made it safely to land.
Could this be a lesson for the church of Jesus Christ today? It might feel like the church is tossed about by stormy winds and rough waters. The culture around us is changing rapidly. We are uncertain about the future. Within any congregation, we might be tempted to “jump ship” and escape for shore on our own. Staying together in the church is difficult because we disagree about political and moral issues. Let’s face it, staying together on the boat means putting up with people we don’t like. We might keep our name on the membership roll but stop coming except for Christmas and Easter. We might tell ourselves that we can have a relationship with Jesus Christ on our own just fine and we don’t need a church to make that happen.
Paul told the centurion and the soldiers on the ship, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” More or less, whether we like it or not, our salvation is interwoven with community. God gathers those who are being saved and there are no life rafts for those who want to do it alone. The church might be difficult sometimes, but it’s better than drowning alone.
Prayer: Thank you for the gift of the church, O God. Knit me into community with others on this voyage so that our futures are interwoven in your gracious will. When I am tempted to jump ship, remind me of the ways your church cares for me and nurtures my faith. Remind me that my gifts and my presence are needed in the boat. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].