Week of Nov. 11: Our journey is enriched when we share life-giving meal of our faith
By Rev. John Brantley
Lesson for Nov. 11
Scripture: Acts 27:1-2, 33-44
The Apostle Paul is joined by Luke and others on a journey toward Rome. At every point throughout his journey, Paul uses his own political rights as a citizen to seek justice. He pleads his case for Jesus Christ through every struggle along the way. Now, as a prisoner, he is transported by boat across the Mediterranean Sea. Experienced sailors filled the waters with transports for commerce and business. Just as we might find prisoners being transported by van or bus as we drive along the highway today, we see Paul being taken with others to court.
The speed of the journey would have been helped or hindered by the weight of the boat. The lighter the load, the faster the crossing would take. Paul encourages everyone to eat and the excess food is thrown overboard. This act of hospitality had both practical and spiritual significance. First, Paul shows compassion for those suffering along with him. He calls us by example to see those who hunger and thirst around us. It is with great boldness that Paul find food. He gives witness to God’s providing grace for the spiritual journey we share.
Eating will help us live. When we share food with others we are extending life. This is the daily witness of the resurrection. Jesus teaches disciples to remember His grace every time we eat, breaking bread and sharing the cup, in His name. Paul’s promises those who travel with them that if they eat this meal together, no harm would come to them. God would be with them as they traveled. This witness of God-with-us is found in the sharing of a meal. That may be why we enjoy eating so much as United Methodists. In the text, the whole boat is encouraged by the meal, both physically and spiritually.
Stand By Me
While Paul promises that they will not lose a hair on their head, he does not mean that no trouble will come. As even the most experienced travelers will report, events and conditions change and we must certainly be prepared for the uncertain. Paul’s boat lands into a reef, torn apart by the power of the sea. This is a desperate moment where the rules appear to be changing. Civil rights are threatened for Paul and the others in the boat. Job security threatens to take priority over human life. The stormy power of the sea was beyond everyone’s control. For a short time it looked as if everything was over and God had forgotten God’s promises Paul shared.
Different moments shake our faith and reality. No matter how hard we try or diligently we prepare for every potential problem, we find ourselves in situations where everyone and everything appear and feel to be working against us. Paul has an advocate, not only in the Holy Spirit, but in the unlikely actions of the centurion. The glimmer of justice and hope may be slim at times, but it is in those small moments and quiet voices that God works and speaks. It is through the compassion and vision of others, sometimes those we least expect, that God will offer grace to find another way.
All Were Brought Safely
Those who could swim were given the freedom to use the talents, skills and experiences they had to get to land as quickly as possible. Others who could not swim found pieces of the broken boat to remain afloat and to make their way to the shore. Not everyone has the same gifts. We have different stories to tell. We have a variety of resources to draw on to find our way out of storms and trials. Grace is given to all that all might make it safely to the shore.
The emphasis shifts from a few making a way for themselves to survive, to finding a way for everyone to reach safety. Everyone works and everyone encourages; together we survive. The text begins by an invitation to extend life. The vow we make to be witnesses of Christ through our local congregation involves reaching out to those whom others have rejected and to those who already share the journey with us. We find our lives expanded when we share the life-giving meal of our faith and with every meal we share with others in Jesus’ name. We extend the reach of God’s promises when we remember to call for trust and faithfulness, especially when we are faced with great and difficult decisions or a crisis.
Action Plan: Invite someone to lunch and share the meal in Jesus’ name. During the meal, discuss how you will trust Christ in the uncertainty that will meet you in the week ahead.Hymn: “Stand By Me” # 512
Prayer: God who makes land and sea, feed and fill as you travel with me. May I hold on to you and find my hope fulfilled in you. Amen.