Everyone fasted for two weeks.
In that dark night and desperate hour, Paul took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat (Acts 27:35). Paul wasn’t super-spiritual. Even though the angel had promised safety for all, something as down to earth as dinner was still necessary to survive the shipwreck. Eating in the face of death expresses a hope and a will to live. Just watching Paul eat chased away the gloom: Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves (Acts 27:36).
Eating in the face of death expresses a hope and a will to live.
If this is not a celebration of the Eucharist, it comes as close as you can get. For a devout Jew, there’s something sacred about sharing a meal with others. It implies acceptance and solidarity before the Lord. God had entrusted everyone on board to Paul (Acts 27:24). He doesn’t gather his fellow Christians, Luke and Aristarchus, into a cosy corner for a holy huddle. He takes all his 275 shipmates under his wing. He shepherds them through the storm. He turns that sinking ship into a floating cathedral. He shares his courage with everyone – centurion, soldiers, sailors, passengers, prisoners on death row and fellow Christians too. He draws a circle that takes them all in. Imagine what he would have done on the Titanic.
Paul reminds us of the radical inclusiveness of Christ, who eats with saints and sinners alike. Jesus is a centre without a boundary. He feeds the five thousand. He pardons a prostitute caught in the act. He builds His Church without walls. He draws a circle that takes us in. The Incarnation places Christ and all who serve Him in absolute solidarity with all humanity.
Paul reminds us of the radical inclusiveness of Christ.
No one understood this better than the German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was sentenced to death by the Nazis during World War II. On the way to the gallows, his fellow prisoners asked him to hold a worship service. At first he refused because one of them was an atheist and a communist. Bonhoeffer didn’t want to draw a circle that would exclude any of his fellow prisoners. It was only when the atheist asked him to hold the service and wanted to be included that Bonhoeffer agreed. He drew a circle that took him in.
Fast and pray
The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members (William Temple).
- Jesus ate with sinners. He drew a circle that took them in. Do we?
In June 2018, Ethos Institute released its findings on a study to assess the attitudes of Christians in Singapore towards LGBT individuals and LGBT activism. On the question of how open their church was in welcoming an individual with same sex attraction into its community life, 50% said “not open at all”, 29% said “somewhat open”, and 22% said “open” or “very open”. 75% said that they did not feel safe sharing their experience or struggles with same-sex attraction to their church leaders. 86% said that their church did not have any ministry or help channels for people with same sex attraction. Ask God to forgive us. Pray that more pastors will eagerly address these issues and make their churches a safe haven for strugglers who want help. All this, while affirming the orthodox view of marriage, family and sexuality.
Christians must stand out as people who welcome all kinds and love all types.
- A recent survey on social capital came to this stark conclusion: The sharpest social divisions in Singapore may now be based on class, instead of race or religion (Institute of Policy Studies, The Straits Times, December 28, 2017). Are Christians any different?
Pray for Church leadership to actively study this national concern. Pray for insight and wisdom to unpack the issues. Ask God for fresh ideas and promising solutions for the best way forward. Pray for Christians from all walks of life. May we stand out as people who welcome all kinds and love all types. May we seize every opportunity to interact and make friends with others outside of our usual circles centred on a common race, language, religion, educational and housing background (IPS report 2017). May we be recognised as a community that always acts for the common good. Majulah Singapura!
- “A leader is a dealer in hope.” (Napoleon)
If we have the character, that is. This was Paul’s fourth shipwreck. He had already survived three. Plus a long litany of other ordeals that would make Harrison Ford squirm (2 Corinthians 11:23-33). God had tempered Paul through it all. Now he had the character and courage to face the storm and inspire hope in others. Can God do the same with you? Are you a bridge over troubled waters? What would you have done on the Titanic?
Ask God to help you respond rightly through every test so that He can strengthen your character and use you to bring calm and courage into situations of panic and fear – whenever and wherever.
- Memorise and pray the Word: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5).
Read the devotional from Day 37, August 6: There for others here.