Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Another Biblical Model for Letting Go of "Stuff"

Never spent much time with Acts of the Apostles (written by Luke but mostly about Paul & his adventures) til this last year and now I'm going through very slowly and repeating many readings that I glossed over because it sometimes seemed like a grand adventure story. If I truly believe that every word in the Bible is meaningful, I'm going to take the  Spiritual Exercises to heart and dig in.

I've been following Paul as he used his rights as a Roman citizen to demand that he be tried in Rome for overstepping the Sanhedrin's boundaries for free speech. He travels by sea accompanied by a centurion of the cohort Augusta that had other prisoners, as well. Setting sail from Crete they are several weeks at stormy sea and decide that they must abandon ship and look for the least hostile environment in which to run ashore:
  • "I urge you now to keep up your courage; not one of you will be lost, only the ship. For last night an angel of the God to whom (I) belong and whom I serve stood by me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You are destined to stand before Caesar; and behold, for your sake, God has granted safety to all who are sailing with you. Therefore, keep up your courage, men; I trust in God that it will turn out as I have been told.We are destined to run aground on some island.” Acts 27: 22-26
  • "In all, there were two hundred seventy-six of us on the ship. After they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea. When day came they did not recognize the land, but made out a bay with a beach. They planned to run the ship ashore on it, if they could. So they cast off the anchors and abandoned them to the sea, and at the same time they unfastened the lines of the rudders, and hoisting the foresail into the wind, they made for the beach. But they struck a sandbar and ran the ship aground. The bow was wedged in and could not be moved, but the stern began to break up under the pounding [of the waves]. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners so that none might swim away and escape,but the centurion wanted to save Paul and so kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to the shore,and then the rest, some on planks, others on debris from the ship. In this way, all reached shore safely. " Acts 27: 37-44
Decisions to cast off & abandon food & anchors are not lightly made . They had jettisoned cargo earlier in the storm. I have been cautiously & carefully ridding myself of excess stuff, which is fine as I mentioned in an earlier post, but I wonder if I am avoiding recognizing a storm that should be telling me to act more urgently? Lord, like Paul & the centurion, help me to recognize when objects & habits are no longer serving you well. I have cast off wheat (ha! ha! because I'm allergic), now onto other things.
The centurion had, over time, come to admire & respect Paul and perhaps know Jesus, through him. The centurion's decision to save all prisoners & to wisely save the planks for those who could not swim seemed to bear out this time spent in Paul's company. This reminds me of the runners at the recent Boston marathon who tore off their clothes to use as touniquets for those who were  seriously injured in the bomb blast.


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