13 May 2015Acts 14:8-20
“[God] has not left himself without a witness in doing good – giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy” (v. 17)
Psalm: Psalm 8
The key message in today's passage is of God creating and sharing what is good for the benefit of human beings. This is illustrated at the outset with the introduction of the man, disabled all his life, who has never walked. Whatever the reason for his disability, it was not intended that this should last for the whole of his life. After Paul tells him merely to stand up he does more, springing up and walking. Sadly this is not how things usually turn out for those with limited mobility and other conditions, though care for the disabled, in the Christian hospital tradition, traces its roots to the healing ministry of Jesus and the Apostles.
In a superstitious environment Paul then finds himself in an interesting situation where he is hailed as a god (verses 11-13). This disturbing experience, which caused Barnabas and Paul to tear their clothes and rush out into the crowd (verses 13-14) shouting: "Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you..." (v. 15), gives Paul another opportunity to share his message. He tailors what he says ("all things to all people", 1 Corinthians 9:22), offering what we could call a 'green' mini-sermon, today's chosen text.
It's encouraging to read Paul celebrating the natural environment in a non-Christian setting and talking of joy with the over-excited locals. Perhaps we need reminding that all God's people - the human race - whether Christians or not, share in the joy of a beautiful and bountiful world. Talking about the natural world, and the blessings which everyone shares, are as much a part of the gospel of God's love as anything else.
Unfortunately the story does not end there and acclaim turns to serious personal danger. The Jews (a difficult expression) arrive from Antioch and persuade the crowds to stone Paul, which must have been no mean feat as Paul seems to have been very much in tune with local people. This tension between the early Christians and the Hellenistic Jews (those who adapted to Greek culture) is a feature of Paul's mission (Acts 13:45).
- How do you express your gratitude for all the blessings of creation?
- Where does the idea of a 'green gospel' fit into your thinking?
- What are your connections with Jewish people?