Saturday, October 9, 2010

Acts 27 -- a man on a mission

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was one of the more colorful figures of the American War Between the States. A pious Presbyterian, he taught a Sunday School for local slaves before the war, affectionately calling them his "colored militia."[0] He was a beloved teacher at Virginia Military Academy, and a demanding leader of his "foot cavalry." Mary Johnston's novel The Long Roll[1] accurately depicts the miseries of the new recruits as they learned to cover incredible distances by forced marches. Jackson defeated armies of aggressors that outnumbered his by several multiples in his beloved Shenandoah Valley by finding, and defeating, one weak spot after another.

General Jackson was a Calvinist, who asserted that this conviction made him a good soldier. Until God's assignment for his life was complete, Jackson said, he was as safe on the battlefield as he was in his own bed.[2]

We see something of this same confident security in today's reading from Acts 27. Paul is on his way to Rome by sea. A violent and prolonged typhoon[3] buffeted the ship, and after nearly two weeks of fighting the elements, people gave themselves up for lost. At this point, Paul has another of his periodic visions, and shares it with his shipmates:
Act 27:22 Şimdi size öğüdüm şu: Cesur olun! Gemi mahvolacak, ama aranızda hiçbir can kaybı olmayacak.
Act 27:23, 24 Çünkü kendisine ait olduğum, kendisine kulluk ettiğim Tanrı'nın bir meleği bu gece yanıma gelip dedi ki, 'Korkma Pavlus, Sezar'ın önüne çıkman gerekiyor. Dahası Tanrı, seninle birlikte yolculuk edenlerin hepsini sana bağışlamıştır.'
Act 27:25 Bunun için efendiler, cesur olun! Tanrı'ya inanıyorum ki, her şey tıpkı bana bildirildiği gibi olacak.
Cesur olun! (Courageous be!) Tanrı'nın bir meleği (Of God an angel) bu gece yanıma (this night by my side)
gelip dedi ki, (came and said) 'Korkma Pavlus, Sezar'ın önüne çıkman gerekiyor. (fear not Paul, Caesar in front of to go it is necessary.) Dahası Tanrı, seninle birlikte yolculuk edenlerin hepsini sana bağışlamıştır.' (What's more, God, those with you together travelers who are all to you will be spared.)

Paul had a task to achieve, a divine assignment to carry out. The protection God gave him on this errand spilled over to shelter those who were traveling with him.

A word of encouragement to an unemployed scholar, seeking to find a job, finish a dissertation, and prosper in an uncertain economy!


[0] After the war, a Second Presbyterian Church, comprised of people of color, took up a collection for a costly stained glass window. The theme? Stonewall Jackson kneeling in prayer.

[1] Mary was the niece of the General Johnston who negotiated the surrender of more than 90,000 southern patriots at Bennett Springs, in Durham North Carolina, several weeks after General Robert E. Lee's more famous surrender at Appomattox. Mary grew up steeped in the tales of valor, hardship, and chaos from that era. It is profoundly disturbing to read realistic battle scenes, set in familiar bucolic landscapes. Since "the winners write the history books," discriminating readers are well advised to read Mary Johnston's account for "the rest of the story."

[2] In fact, he did not die in battle, but was shot by his own sentries when returning from a scouting expedition. "Let us cross over the river, and rest beneath the trees," he said as he died several days later.

[3] Yep, typhoon. That's literally the word used here: τυφωνικὸς .

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