So, Pastor Gregg really threw me a curve ball this week. When he originally shared this week’s theme with me – “Nor’easter,” I thought he was kidding. How could this be a bible story? But alas! The term Nor’easter is actually found in today’s reading of Acts! This is where I have to admit that my husband was right!
Storm stories this week has taken us to the book of Acts where we read of a Nor’easter. This story in Acts can be read in two ways: the first as its own passage, stand alone, another example of a storm in the bible where the key players have to wait on God in response to the storm. The second way to read this is to look at the greater pericope, the greater section of text to see the broad picture.
The passages before and after today’s reading are about Paul’s life and ministry after he is a prisoner for preaching and teaching Jesus. Before Paul and the others board the ship that eventually is caught up in this Nor’easter, Paul is defending the teachings to the King Agrippa. He’s explaining that he too was much like the king and those who were trying to keep him imprisoned – casting ballots against believers, declaring blaspheme, seeking out those who were Christ teachers. He retells the story of his “call” from God on the road to Damascus. If you recall Paul was actually Saul, and Saul was a brutal and relentless Christian. But God stop shim in his tracks – blinds him – and speaks to him asking, “why are you persecuting me?” This is a defining moment for Saul and he has a full conversion – even to the point of changing his name.
This is where we meet Paul today. He has been preaching, teaching, and healing and finds himself captive. King Agrippa agrees that Paul has done nothing wrong so he is sent out from the land – handed over to a Roman soldier for travel. But while aboard the ship, this Nor’easter comes up.
For us a Nor’easter can be a brutal storm. By definition, a nor’easter is a macro-scale cyclone that occurring along the upper East Coast of the United States and Atlantic Canada. The name derives from the direction of the strongest winds—as an offshore air mass rotates counter-clockwise, winds tend to blow northeast-to-southwest over the land in those regions. In order for this storm to occur, many factors have to come together at the same time under the best conditions.
It sounds like the biggest threat with a Nor’easter is the powerful winds. So being on a boat during one of these storms would be bad. And that’s what Paula and the others on the ship experience. It’s windy and rough, the ship is being battered, and eventually they have to run aground.
This entire series has been about biblical storms and how the people of God have weathered them – how God responded to God’s people and how our Creator God is still responding to us today.
For me, this Nor’easter reminds me of times in our lives when everything is so ordered that we see how disaster can occur OR how God can be working. In Paul’s case, this storm would have seemed perfect because it allowed him to land in Malta. In Malta he finds incredible hospitality, people in need of healing, and a people who are receptive to hearing his testimony of Jesus. Paul may have considered this storm divine intervention.
Much like we have seen over the past three weeks, God was present with those going through storms – with Moses, Noah, and Jonah. And even when each of them decided to go their own way or try to do things without God, losing hope, God acted. God provided. God was present.
Friends God is present with you as well. Sometimes creating and aligning events to lead you to places you would least expect to go, with a specific purpose in mind. Perhaps you moved to Buffalo for work – stayed for the chicken wings and awesome football 🙂 Perhaps family was here and you returned. Maybe you chose this place because of the school systems and your kids are long gone but you are a part of the community. God is using this place, right now, for God’s purposes. We heard in Jeremiah:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.
Let’s be more Paul-like. You and I shouldn’t give up on sharing the Good News of Jesus. Even when times are tough let’s remain confident in God’s promise to you and me – to be prosperous with God-given hope and a future.
We have to remember where we have come from while living into to who and where God has planted each of us. And do so with joy and confidence today and always.
There was so much worry onboard the ship during the storm. But before the shipwreck, Paul gave the group a pep talk and encouraged them to eat. The worry of the storm – much like any storm – had caused them to forget even the simplest act of eating. Paul goes on to break bread with them – and they eat enough …plenty with leftover grain to throw to the sea.
May our experience at communion this morning be one where we are reminded to eat our fill- to desire to be so filled with God’s spirit that we actually long for this experience – this simple act of taking bread and juice as food for our journey.
It is a United Methodist tradition to serve communion to anyone, anywhere who is seeking God in their lives. So this morning Christ extends the invitation to everyone – we merely serve so that you can receive. Communion this morning will be served at the center aisle. You will be given a piece of bread and an individual cup. You may stay at the railing for prayer or head back to your seats.
Let us pray……AMEN.