The Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck

When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’   (Mk. 2:17)

Main altar of St Paul’s Shipwreck in Valletta, Malta.

I recently learned that there’s a church on the island of Malta called “The Collegiate Parish Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck.” The name of this church comes from Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Malta, when he was on his way to Rome. (Read Acts 27:39—28:1)

Since hearing about the name of this church, I’ve been thinking about how adding the word “shipwreck” to the name of every church would be really helpful.

I say this because Jesus came for the shipwrecked. He didn’t come for those who never capsized or crashed.  Jesus came, as He says above, for the sick and the sinners.

Of course adding the name “shipwreck” to every church is only whimsy, but there’s something here still worth pondering.  Sometimes people in our churches forgot why and for whom our churches exist.

I’ve known people who stopped going to church after their name got into the newspaper, or when they got divorced, or had problems with their children.  I’ve seen others slink away because of something they had done, or some loss they had experienced, or some mess they had made or landed into.

All these folks felt like they had to leave to save their dignity, save their embarrassment, save face.  Just at the time when they most needed the support, healing, and grace that Jesus came to share and created the church to offer, they felt like they had to leave because they didn’t measure up.

And that’s the problem—being part of a church isn’t about measuring up.  Nearly every other organization is about earning our way in, but not the church that Jesus started and intended.

I encourage you to think about your church.  Is there room in your community for the shipwrecked? And, do the people understand that the shipwrecked include every person who’s there?

Jesus was clear.  He only came for the sick, the sinners, and the shipwrecked.  When we are encouraged to claim that we are all of the above, we will know that Jesus heals the sick, forgives the sinners, and saves the shipwrecked.

Reflection Questions:

  1. When have you been “shipwrecked?” When have you lost your way, or made a mess of things? Is this where you are right now?
  1. When things were messy or broken or challenging in your life, did you feel like your community could embrace you, or did you feel like you had to either deny your circumstances or leave?
  1. In your community of faith, do the sick, the sinners, the lost, and the shipwrecked know that there is room, grace, and love for them? If not, is there something you need to do?

Header image above is the Facade St Paul’s Shipwreck in Valletta, Malta.
2015 Richard F. Ebert All Rights Reserved

2 thoughts on “The Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck

  1. JoLynn Howard

    I was shipwrecked when you left. Thankfully, your words remained in my thoughts. Your blog should be required reading for all churches. That’s one reason I love you so. My friend, you get it!

  2. doug puryear

    another great one. wish i could get them regularly, i fear a demon may be involved. some people dont come to church because the shipwrecked people are there, at least thats their excuse. but we shipwrecked need to cling together.

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