By Robert Halsey Pine
“Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.” (Acts 27:27-44 NRSV).
A centurion and some soldiers were taking Paul to Italy to appeal his case before the emperor. Paul had warned the sailors in charge of the ship that the sailing would be very rough. He had previously shared with them that an angel of God had appeared to him. The angel assured Paul that he would stand before the emperor and all that were with him would be safe. They did run into bad seas and the ship, its cargo and passengers were in great danger.
After an unsuccessful attempt by the crew to jump ship in the ship’s boat, Paul lectured them. The rough seas and fear of death had caused them to fast for fourteen days. Paul reminded them that God would see them safely to Italy. If they did not eat now, when they did need their strength, they would be short. Paul took bread, gave thanks to God, broke it and started eating. The others were thus encouraged, ate food and began to throw cargo off of the ship to lighten it.
We have a hard time overcoming fear. Usually our fear causes us to be less prepared for what it is we are afraid of. I once attended a monthly reunion meeting with some HIV positive inmates at a prison two hours north of my home. One of the inmates in particular really got my attention and touched me. During a sharing time, prisoner Charles got up in front of the group and began to speak.
He encouraged the other inmates to be positive. He told them that many of them were depressed and needed to reach for the joy of God. We had started our meeting with our leader reading from Matthew, Chapter 5. Charles picked up on the verse where Jesus says to the disciples, “You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (NRSV)
Charles then said something like this: “None of you understand why I am always smiling. The Lord has touched me in a special way. He has taught me to trust in him for everything. Knowing his love for me, I can smile in all things, good or bad. Jesus says that I am the light of the world. There ain’t nobody or nothing gonna turn off my lamp. My lamp and my smile are gonna shine in all things. I did it my way before and all it got me is 20 years. I’m doing it God’s way now.”
I learned a lot about God from Charles that night at the prison.
Robert Halsey Pine was born in Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.