We are called to move with what the Spirit is doing next
Following the Spirit is risky business, calm seas do not make good sailors.
Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt
Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move….Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
More thoughts for meditation
A good sailor in the Lord’s navy moves with what the Spirit is doing next. Like Paul, they are “constantly on the move” and constantly moved by their concern for everyone. Even though these demands point out how weak they are, the demands also prove how they are strong in faith and in the power God provides. If we never get into stormy seas, we never become good sailors.
Some of our notable spiritual ancestors proved our proverb quite literally. Francis of Assisi followed the example of Paul and took to the sea to advance his mission. He was inspired to move and ended up in Egypt in the middle of the storm of the Fifth, disastrous Crusade!
The story goes that at the famous second general chapter (May, 1219) Francis assigned a separate mission to each of his foremost disciples, He appointed himself the mission of bringing the Gospel to the war between the crusaders and the Saracens. With eleven companions he set sail for Saint-Jean d’Acre. He was present at the siege and taking of Damietta.
Francis preached in Egypt to the not-so-“Christian” Crusaders waiting outside Damietta’s walls ready to massacre the inhabitants, acting gluttonously and dissolutely. He was disgusted and turned away from them. Francis went through enemy lines into the Saracen camp, where he was taken prisoner and led before the sultan, Malik-al-Kamil. According to the testimony of Jacques de Vitry, who was with the crusaders at Damietta, the sultan received Francis with courtesy.
Bonaventure, in his Major Life of St. Francis, described the meeting, “The sultan asked them by whom and why and in what capacity they had been sent, and how they got there; but Francis replied that they had been sent by God, not by men, to show him and his subjects the way of salvation and proclaim the truth of the Gospel message. When the sultan saw his enthusiasm and courage, he listened to him willingly and pressed him to stay with him.”
Francis’ enthusiastic desire to share his good news with the Sultan, without insulting Islam or refuting Mohammed, was unique and disarming. In the encounter between them, both Francis and the Sultan were changed. When Francis finally left to return to Italy, the Sultan showered him with many gifts. Because he had no interest in treasure, Francis refused them all, except for one special item: an ivory horn used by a muezzin to call the faithful to prayer. On his return, Francis used it to call people together for prayer or for preaching.
For another inspiring sailor, remember Brendan the Navigator, the hero of what is probably the “best-seller” of the entire Middle Ages.
Suggestions for action
Pray: Pilot me, Savior, through stormy or calm seas.
What is the stormy sea you are facing? It could be interior: anxiety, fear, loss. It could be exterior: finances, violence, broken relationships. You may be doing all you can to calm that sea. May Jesus say, “Peace be still.”
Even if our stormy sea is not calmed, we can receive the Lord’s peace and gain strength to serve by enduring the threat with trust, just like Paul did on his way to Rome, like Francis did in the middle of a siege, like Brendan did in a leather-made coracle. The Lord needs partners who do not fear storms any more than He does. The whole nation, even the world, seems to be entering a time of unimagined storms. May you become a better sailor as you welcome the peace of Christ into difficult circumstances.