Monday, July 13, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Read Acts 23:12-35
I must admit to struggling a bit with these passages from Acts, especially after the narrative has covered the early church in Jerusalem and begins to focus on Paul's journeys. I have great respect for Paul as a missionary who transformed the church by reaching out to the Gentile population in his travels. His correspondence with the churches he founded has some of the best teaching and highest inspiration in the New Testament. Why my struggle to find deep meaning in the passages we have been reading recently?

Perhaps part of the answer has to do with the nature of the book of Acts. It is primarily a history text. It recounts the story of Paul's journeys. The story itself is inspiring and worthy of reflection. As my daughter would say, "It is what it is."

The"historical" question which today's reading poses for me is, "What provoked this intense hatred of Paul among the Jews?" There are several possible answers.

Paul is a traitor (to the Jewish faith) and must be punished as such.

His mission to the nations threatens Israel's identity as God's chosen people.

His interpretation of Scripture (the Hebrew Bible) to support the Lord's resurrection provokes the long-standing tensions between the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

In each city where Paul was beaten, arrested, or run out of town, there were likely antagonisms specific to the locality.

Almighty God, who converted Saul the persecutor to Paul, the apostle and missionary: Transform any parts of our lives which continue to weaken your church. Plant the gospel message in our hearts, that it may bear fruit in our testimony. May your Spirit knit us together in unity, standing on the ground which has one foundation, Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.

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