30 April, 2023
I want to try something a bit different here for the next few weeks and see what you think of it.
Previously I’ve used this space to give some ideas of where we might head as we explore the reading for the week, usually including a brief bit of background and some thoughts and insights into the passage and what it might say for us. Then I’ve done the same sort of thing on the Sunday morning giving some cometary on the passage that helps us place it in context and then see how that context relates to us today and what it might all mean.
So, for the next few weeks as we look at the actions of the apostles this space here will be the cometary and background or placing of the passage and on a Sunday morning we’ll explore and look for insights and how we live out what the passage might be saying to us. Let me know what you think and if that is helpful.
Last week we witnessed a major shift in the trajectory of the Church when God connected Peter to a Roman centurion. The Gentiles are welcomed into the Body of Christ as much as the Jews. We see what happens next in the mission to the Gentiles with the introduction of the apostle Paul.
We’ve skipped the telling of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, but it’s worth noting that in our reading today his is still called Saul. Saul is his Hebrew name and Paul his Roman name. He never really changes his name; he just changes which one he uses. From here on in Acts we have the stories of how Paul lives out his calling as the apostle to the Gentiles.
We begin our reading with a reminder of just how central the Holy Spirit is in the mission of God. It is the Holy Spirit who speaks to the church ‘commissioning’ Saul and Barnabas to be “Set apart …for the work to which I have called them.” (13:2)
We skip over some of their first journeys into the lands of the Gentiles and conclude our reading with Paul and Barnabas’ visit to Lystra. Following the healing of a man who had been crippled from birth the people in Lystra declare “The gods have come down to us in human form!” (14:11) And they attempt to place the personas of Zeus and Hermes upon them and worship them, which Paul and Barnabas reject completely.
The people of Lystra show that they have an acceptance of gods, just not the God that Paul and Barnabas were speaking about. The people have a particular understanding, and so it is up to Paul and Barnabas to change that as they share the Good News. It wasn’t easy. We are left with the words that “..they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.” (14:18)