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The strong will of the Spirit

by davesandel on May 30th, 2020

May 28, 2020               (today’s lectionary)

The strong will of the Spirit

We say it easily, mostly in our comfort, that our God reigns. How often would Paul have been tempted to add an “s” in the middle of that last word and sigh, “Our God resigns.” Over and over he is attacked and persecuted. Sometimes his disciples need to protect him from himself. Paul wanted to go before the crowd in Ephesus, but the disciples would not let him.

But Paul is one of the most strong-willed people you could ever know, and he really didn’t listen much to others. In Tyre, the disciples kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to embark for Jerusalem. But we boarded the ship, and they returned home. In Caesarea, Philip the Evangelist bound his own hands and feet and said to Paul, “Thus says the Holy Spirit: this is how the Jews will bind the owner of this belt in Jerusalem.” They begged him not to go. But he would not be dissuaded.

Guess what? In Jerusalem, despite efforts to appease the Jews, Paul was quickly pulled out of the temple and beaten. Roman soldiers rescued him. Rather than beating him themselves, in a great testimony to Paul’s persuasive power, their centurion allowed him to speak to the mob. He spoke to the centurion in Greek and to the mob in Hebrew. For a moment that quieted them, as he told the story of encountering Jesus on the way to kill Christians in Damascus.

But they could not stay quiet for long. Paul mentioned the Gentiles, and it was like a match to a fuse. Confused and angry this time at everyone involved, the centurion ordered a second rescue. But now he thought he would whip Paul to elicit a “confession.” Surely he had done something!

Paul was stretched out for the whips, and then he played his trump card. “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen?” Of course not! So the next day he was “freed” and ordered to appear before the Jewish leaders, those same “chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin” guys who had killed Jesus. At this point the lectionary text continues from yesterday.

If Paul was not political already, these last few encounters with the powers that be heightened his sensitivity to the “needs” of others. In this speech he played the Pharisees against the Sadducees. A great uproar ensued, and the commander, afraid Paul would be torn to pieces, rescued Paul from their midst.

Paul wanted to go to Rome, and he was about to get his wish. In the night God stood by him. He told Paul what he so often tells all of us, “Do not be afraid. Be strong and take heart. The Lord thy God is with thee.” And in specific, “Just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

Just what Paul was thinking himself!

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge!

You are my portion, you are my cup

You counsel me, I thank you!

At night, even in darkness I see you ever before me

My heart is glad!

My soul is high and lifted up!

My body rests in confidence and peace!

For you have never abandoned me, you will never abandon me

You show me the path to life and the delights at your right hand

O God you are my only hope

 

Just what Jesus was thinking himself … praying in the night …

You Father are in me and I in you

And they also will be in us, all those who believe in me

I have given my friends the glory you gave me

And they will be one as we are one

Brought to perfection AS ONE

And the world will know you and all your joy in them

You loved me before the foundation of the world

I know that you sent me.

Your love for me, let it be in them

And I in them          (Acts 22, Psalm 16, John 17)

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