Daily Devotional reflections

As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer

“Power and the waves”

stormy sea

Tor kept pulling the cord to try to start the outboard motor on the tiny little boat, but the engine would not start.  Then it burst into life and we headed out into the rising waves of the Sound of Iona.  My knuckles were white as I gripped onto the sides of the tossing boat as we headed out into the deep, bouncing among the white waves.  What would happen, I wondered, if the engine gave out before we made it to the safety of the jetty on Iona?  I pictured our craft, no bigger than a rowing boat, heading out into the Atlantic, or at least to the island of Tiree.

I have never been a very good sailor and under normal circumstances you would never have got me into a little boat among these waves.  But these were not normal circumstances.  It was the early 1970s and I was with a group of young people spending a week on Iona.  Ian was one of those lads that always got into scrapes.  He had fallen on the rocks while fishing and hurt his arm.  No doctor on Iona.  I had to take him to Bunessan, the nearest village on Mull, but the doctor there said he needed an X-ray, and for that we had to go to Oban, another ferry journey away. In the Oban hospital the X-ray was done and we headed back to the pier to see the ferry we had hoped to catch, sailing away.   The next ferry would get us to Fionnphort on Mull, too late to catch the last Iona Ferry of the day.

A phone call to Iona fixed the problem.  Tor, the youth worker – a tall bearded Norwegian (Viking?) said he would come for us in his boat with Fraser my brother-in-law.   So here were the four of us bouncing across the waves in a tiny boat, wondering if the outboard motor would hold out. 

I had been telling stories to the young people about the journey which St Columba had made in 563 AD from Derry to Iona in his coracle, a little boat made from a simple wooden frame covered with skin;  no engine, just oars and a sail.   That evening in Tor’s little boat I really appreciated what it must be like to make a journey like that.

Those early Celtic monks were great seafarers and in those days, journeys along the west coast of Scotland were much easier by sea than by land.  There was St Brendan, often referred to as the Navigator.  He was born and trained in Ireland, but Scotland was one of his missionary areas.  There are churches dedicated to him all along the West coast: Arran, Bute, Tiree, Barra, even St Kila, and many more. There is even a hint that he sailed through the stormy Pentland Firth and founded a church at Boyndie, near Banff (St Brandan’s) and at Birnie near Elgin  But the most dramatic stories about that doughty saint tell of two journeys that possibly took him across the Atlantic via Iceland and Greenland to America.  Many scholars had put these stories down as just legends; but in 1976/7 (just a couple of year’s after my crossing of the Sound of Iona) some hardy modern sailors built a boat like Brendan’s and proved that it could be done by following his voyage across the Atlantic and landing in America.

Beyond these shores and into the darkness,
beyond these shores this boat may sail.
I know this is your way
and there will be a path across the sea.
And if I sail beyond the furthest ocean
or am afraid of the depths below,
I know that wherever I may go your love surrounds me.
For you have been beyond these shores
Into the darkness
                                    Prayer of St Brendan the Navigator (484-577 AD)


A boat’s engine keeps it heading in the right direction and not just where tide, wind and current takes it.   Brendan had faith that God would be with him through whatever dangers he might face.
What power do you reply on when the way is hard?


Psalm 107:23-31

23 Some went out on the sea in ships;
    they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the Lord,
    his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
    that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
    in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
    they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea[a] were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

Mark 4:35-41
Jesus calms the storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’
41 They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’


Be still and know that I am God. 
Psalm 46:10

Calm me, O Lord, as you stilled the storm.
Still me, O Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all tumult within me cease
Enfold me Lord in your peace.

When we are inclined to worry or panic,
speak with authority to us.
so that fears may be confronted,
faith reinstated.
Through him and in him let us spend our days and nights
with the courage and peace of those who know
they are safe with you.

Ever-present God,
be with us in our isolation,
be close to us in our distancing,
be healing in our sickness,
 be joy in our sadness,
 be light in our darkness,
be wisdom in our confusion,
 be all that is familiar when all is unfamiliar,
that when the doors reopen
we may with the zeal of Pentecost
inhabit our communities
and speak of your goodness
to an emerging world.


Circle me, Lord.
Keep protection near
And danger afar.
Circle me, Lord
Keep hope within.
Keep doubt without.
Circle me, Lord.
Keep light near
And darkness afar.
Circle me, Lord.
Keep peace within.
Keep evil out.

In Christ alone