Thought for the day – Friday

Reading

Acts 18:9-18

14 ‘If it were a matter of crime or serious villainy, I would be justified in accepting the complaint of you Jews; 15 but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I do not wish to be a judge of these matters.’

Reflection

Paul is in Corinth, towards the end of what we now call his second missionary journey, a journey of some 3-4 years (AD 49-52) starting and ending in Antioch in Syria (near Antakya in modern Turkey)

He’s staying with fellow tentmakers, Aquila and Priscilla, who in AD 49 along with all the other Jews, had been expelled from Rome by order of Emperor Claudius. He remains in Corinth, we are told (v11) ‘for a year and six months’, probably staying with Aquila and Priscilla the whole time – they become very close and Paul regards them as his co-workers in Christ and they leave Corinth together.

As was his custom, he is preaching the gospel to the Jews and has become exasperated at their intransigence – it seems to be in Corinth that Paul arrives at a momentous decision – 18:6 ‘But when the Jews became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them “Your blood be on your own heads. I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”’ Paul had already been taking the Gospel to the gentiles – he with Barnabas had taken the Council’s letter to the Gentile believers in Antioch, releasing them from circumcision and placing but mild requirements upon them. The impression that Luke gives here is that Paul is now determined to focus more on the Gentiles rather than the Jews – and indeed the message goes far into the Gentile world reaching Rome by AD 60, some 25 years after Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.

The Jews are so afraid of losing something, of something that challenges their way of doing things, their well-established rules and procedures, that they continually attack Paul and try to silence him, this time in Corinth, by bringing him into court. But the wise proconsul, Gallio, is having nothing of it, throws them out of court and ignores their subsequent spiteful attack on Sosthenes, the Official of the Synagogue . Why would they do that? What sort of people are they?

So I wonder how we react when our well-established way of doing things is threatened; when our rules and procedures are threatened; when we might no longer be able to afford the maintenance of our huge buildings. How will we re-arrange things to ensure that the Good News of the Risen Christ still reaches those who need to hear it? Indeed, will we re-arrange things, or will we just hunker down and carry on as we always have?

Prayer

Almighty and eternal God,
you have kindled the flame of love in the hearts of your people;
grant that we may continue to show the love of Christ
no matter what circumstances may befall us or our institutions;
and that we may be sustained by the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the power of the Holy Spirit
Amen


Reading (Full text)

Acts 18:9-18

9 One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.’ 11 He stayed there for a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. 12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal. 13 They said, ‘This man is persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to the law.’ 14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘If it were a matter of crime or serious villainy, I would be justified in accepting the complaint of you Jews; 15 but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I do not wish to be a judge of these matters.’ 16 And he dismissed them from the tribunal. 17 Then all of them seized Sosthenes, the official of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of these things. 18 After staying there for a considerable time, Paul said farewell to the believers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila

Text of the song

God is Gone Up (Finzi) — Choir of Wells Cathedral

God is gone up with a triumphant shout!
The Lord with sounding Trumpets’ melodies:
Sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praises out,
Unto our King sing praise seraphicwise!
Lift up your Heads, ye lasting Doors, they sing,
And let the King of Glory enter in.

Methinks I see Heaven’s sparkling courtiers fly,
In flakes of Glory down him to attend,
And hear Heart-cramping notes of Melody
Surround his Chariot as it did ascend;
Mixing their Music, making ev’ry string
More to enravish as they this tune sing.