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Diversity at night

by davesandel on May 12th, 2020

May 12, 2020               (today’s lectionary)

 

Diversity at night

Things are getting much worse. Jews won over the crowds and stoned Paul, dragged him out of the city, left him for dead.

I love Luke’s terse commentary. But when the disciples gathered around him he got up and entered the city. Although he didn’t stay long.

He didn’t stay long, but he didn’t stay away long either. The traveling Paul-hating Jews had presumably left by now. Paul and Barnabas had been to Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. And now, perhaps with their hearts in their mouths, they left Derbe and returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch to encourage the Christians.

Persevere! We must undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.

Were they in hiding? The Jews who incited crowds to kill Paul were from Antioch. Paul is not writing a novel, we don’t get to hear the backstory but it’s easy to imagine. Many Christians were afraid to be found out. Paul and Barnabas slept with one ear and one eye open. Like Anne Frank, they were hidden in an attic or a basement. Paul led worship in some obscure back room, crowded, candlelit, late at night. Music was muted, the eucharistic elements carefully hidden and brought out just as Paul lifted up the words of Jesus.

Which he didn’t know, because the gospel of John was written after his death. How could he know? Paul had not yet written to the Corinthians. But, so says “most scholars,” he received (Greek paralambano) the tradition of Eucharist during these days at Antioch.

How do they know? I don’t know how they know. But I can imagine late-night communion by candlelight, silence at times when the guard calls out his warning of passersby, uncertainty about survival even to the next sunrise, desperate heart-felt prayers, songs of praise and pleading. How can we sing King Alpha’s song in this strange land?

The Lord is opening the door of faith to the Gentiles and to us all.

Make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Alleluia!

Let my mouth speak your praise!

Let my flesh bless your holy name forever.

John 14 … Acts 14. Jesus leaves his peace with the disciples. Paul leaves “grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul spoke this way without reading it first in John 14, that’s what so cool, so amazing, so wonderful. Paul channeled Jesus’ words, spoke them to his friends. Jesus said, “I only speak what I hear my Father saying.” Paul seemed to only speak what he heard Jesus saying. Come, Holy Spirit.

 

I will no longer speak much with you. The ruler of the world is coming. The prince of this world. This is the devil Jesus speaks of, who Jesus knows so well. He has no power over Jesus, but does he have power over me? Is the ruler of the world still ruling? Are there dark spiritual taxes, laws, the devil’s praise for obedience and the devil’s penalty when I fail to obey?

Render unto the rulers what is theirs, and render unto God what is God’s. Does Jesus also mean this awful prince, someday to be hurled into hell? How did Jesus know when to disobey? How do I?

He tells me how. Jesus invites me into his world, to be like him and “do just as the Father has commanded me.” In the late night service, blessed bread and wine held up as body and blood of Jesus for us to eat, we are each invited to listen and do. What we hear and how we do will be different, as we are made by God separate and equal, but we are each called to follow through. Just as the Father has commanded me.

This is scary. This is wonderful.

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