“How come you were able to find this and not Ann?” With that question, my friend’s wife wondered at her husband’s ability to fix some tech problems more than the 12-year-old in the house! And his answer made me laugh out loud! He told his perplexed wife that he was 60 and their daughter was 12!
Just goes to show you, experience really does help.
The older I get, the more I worry I’m becoming that old man that’s always grumbling about the “younger” generation. It’s such a tired cliche, but tired cliches usually are tired cliches because they have some truth in them. And the truth is the more years you live and experience the world around you, the more information you have and the broader your knowledge of the world around you. At least that’s true IF you’re paying attention and trying to keep learning. But we stubborn humans seem to insist on making the same mistakes over and over again and learning things “the hard way.” So many patterns of destructive behaviors and attitudes and choices could be avoided if we would simply listen to wisdom. And yet…
Look at our lesson today in Acts 27:1-44; 28:1. We can’t read the whole thing, but I hope you get a chance to read the whole story. Here’s a relevant portion:
As they had been long without food, Paul then came forward among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. I now bid you take heart; for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and lo, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we shall have to run on some island.”
Let me set the stage for this part of Paul’s adventures. He has been arrested in Jerusalem. Since he is a Roman citizen, certain legal forms have to be obeyed, much to the chagrin of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who wanted him killed right then and there. St. Paul presses his advantage as a citizen and appeals directly to Caesar in Rome. So, the Roman officials assign a guard to Paul and put him on a boat to sail to Rome for his audience with the Emperor.
They set sail and come to Crete, where they spend some time. Those running the ship decide to leave Crete, even after Paul had told them he had been warned that the ship, cargo, and even their very lives would be in peril if they left the harbor now. Sadly, the Roman centurion listened to the captain and ship owner more than Paul, and they set sail. Of course, we can understand why. The captain of the ship was a seasoned professional and Paul was a prisoner. But still, if the centurion really knew who St. Paul was, he might have listened to him
And, sure enough, the storm hit the ship, and they resorted to starting throwing cargo overboard to try and salvage what they could. Days and days passed and they were too busy staying alive, battling the storm, to eat. That’s when Paul, calmly and peacefully, told them to eat and not worry because an angel had promised Paul would fulfill his calling to speak to Caesar, with this added promise, everybody will live IF they stay on the ship!
The story has a pretty exciting ending that I hope you read.
But what I hope you take away from this portion today, as we move closer to celebrating the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, is that being filled with the Spirit gives you a sense of calm even in the face of disaster. That calmness also sets you free to see clearly the right Path for your life. But not just for your life, but the lives of those around you as well. It is so very important that we live out this kind of calm, peaceful existence because this world is usually just the opposite. Drama and bitter fighting, anger, fear, and self-centered defensiveness all lead to short-sighted choices that seem to always create more drama and anger and all the like. But the wisdom of those who have spent the most time with the Lord really is invaluable to our daily lives. We should listen to them.
The life of the Spirit, practiced with the wisdom of the Faith, tames all that passionate fuss, and turns fear into insight; turns drama into clear, peaceful action; and anger into energy that keeps me awake to God’s presence and promise and not the intoxicating blindness of rage or revenge.
St. Nikephoros was born in the Empire’s capital, Constantinople, in 758 AD. His father, Theodore, had endured exile because he refused to deny the piety of the holy icons. The “haters of icons” were fighting against the wisdom of the Church during this tumultuous century and many pious people suffered when the iconoclasts were in power in the capital. Such was the time of Nikephoros. He started his professional life as a secretary in the Imperial Palace but then left that world for the monastic life. When the saintly Patriarch Tarasius died, St. Nikephoros was made Patriarch of Constantinople. But soon he came into conflict with the iconoclast emperor Leo the Armenian. And after serving only 6 years as Patriarch, he was exiled from his ministry. The emperor, to torment this mighty champion of the Orthodox Faith, kept moving him around the empire and finally had him exiled to a monastery St. Nikephoros (by the way, his name means “The Light Conquers) had founded to honor his father’s Name Day saint, the monastery of St. Theodore. After being tormented by exile for 13 years, this holy Confessor died at the monastery at age 70. Sometimes, those who refuse to listen to timeless wisdom are in power, but, in the end, the wisdom of God always prevails.
Today, are you able to keep your head about you while others are losing theirs? The life of the Church after the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost is marked by those who allow God to fill them up with an intimacy with Him that settles their lives and sets them free to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. A model of faith and the image of gentleness, the example of your life has shown you forth to your sheep-fold to be a master of temperance. You obtained thus through being lowly, gifts from on high, and riches through poverty. Nicephorus, our father, and priest of priests, intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.
A Blessed Feast of Pentecost to all this Sunday!