Text: Acts 13:13-25
To refrain from judging others
To be glad that that your life is rooted in God’s gracious work
ARRIVING AT THE SYNAGOGUE in the town of Antioch, in Pisidia on the southern part of what is now Turkey, Paul and his companions are invited to “guest preach” at the services that day. Paul begins with a recitation of the history that he and his listeners share, so that he might introduce them to Jesus of Nazareth.
This recap of Israel’s history is necessary and important. The ancient world was suspicious of the new and the novel and understood that it was important that life be grounded in what came before, that a person lived within the orbit of ancestors and past deeds. Even as the Resurrection was a thing not seen before, the first Christian missionaries explained that such a singular event nonetheless flowed forth from how God had always acted toward people. Jesus had not acted outside of that story; he had brought it to fulfillment. Jesus was not some rube from the sticks; he was the true heir of the kings of old. Jesus was not some religious free-lancer; he was deeply wrapped in the religious life of his people. Paul wishes to show Jesus’s “bona fides.” We will see whether he succeeds in his introduction.
Even as we love the newfangled and recent in a way that people in the first century world have seen as foolish, we also use “the bona fides” of others to sort and judge who is the right sort and who is not. The right history, the right family, the right school, the right address, the right manners, the right tastes—all these and more are our cues to ensure that we are dealing with suitable people who can be taken seriously. A story from 1952 could have happened yesterday: at a gathering of distinguished and credentialed theologians, a representative of a group of Christians told the assembled that among his brothers and sisters there was little theological training, or structured, tasteful liturgy, or well-developed church structures. They did not hold the popular opinions of culture or politics. But they did have the confession of the faith, martyrs in their midst, the Holy Word and Sacraments, and works of love and mercy—and God was adding to their numbers.
The palatable astonishment of the crowd was summed up by one listener who remarked to a companion with an almost disappointed tone: “It’s hard to see how, but God has succeeded in blessing these people.”
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks
---Ruins of the city of Antioch, Pisidia