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Posts Tagged ‘Rome’


Friday, March 20, 2020

Acts 21:27-36: Going Up to Jerusalem – Part III

The Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb

To give James and the Jerusalem Jewish Christians their due, they are able to come to an agreement with Paul; but as we follow this story we see that Paul is meant to run into a huge struggle.  He is finally arrested and taken to Rome for his trial and with this single action, the Roman Empire catapults this young religion onto the world stage.  The little-known Jewish sect of the followers of The Way spreads Christ’s message through the Empire.  Jesus becomes a household word and the Way of Peace and Peace-Making suddenly has a universal audience because of Paul’s strife.  There is irony in this story . . . and inversion.

The controlling Jewish leaders meant to stop this movement at its inception, but if we remember the words of Gamaliel in Acts 5:34-42 we will understand that God always works through irony and inversion.  Gamaliel was the most respected scholar and leader of the times.  Paul himself studied with this rabbi.  The writer of Acts records these words of Gamaliel, and they are words we might try to live by daily: In the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone!  Let them go!  For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.

Many times in scripture we encounter this theme:  The faithful need not fight, they only need to maintain their relationship with God and refuse to do anything which causes them to abandon God . . . and it is always the struggle that brings strength, it is always the conflict that teaches patience, it is always the skirmish that draws others to God’s loving providence.  There will be difficulty when we go up to Jerusalem but still we must go.

We must all go up to Jerusalem.  We must stand for something.  We must witness, watch and wait.  We must allow the Holy Spirit to put the words we need into our mouths when we fear speaking.  We must cease worrying about the anxieties and cares of this world.  We must remain committed to the relationships we make.  We must seek and form unity rather than separation.  We must think of self last and neighbor first.  We must pray and intercede for those who harm us.  We are to commit daily acts of hope when we see the impossibilities of this life swirl around us trying to pull us into a vortex of depression and hopelessness.  We are to act with justice rather than leniency.  We are to rebuke Godlessness.  We are to be merciful to all – especially those who seek our destruction.  We are to forgive endlessly, to love infinitely and to hope outrageously.  For this we are created.  To this we are called.  Our God seeks nothing but intimacy with all of us.

God perseveres.  God endures.  God is patient.  God is love.  And this God of Love calls us all to go up to Jerusalem.

Jesus lived.  Jesus died.   Jesus rose.  Jesus returned.  Jesus lives.  And Jesus calls us all to go up to Jerusalem.

Tomorrow: A Prayer as we go up to Jerusalem.


Image from: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/jerusalem-garden-tomb

To learn more about Jerusalem, visit Victor’s Place blog and read the Tomb of Jesus post at: http://vhoagland.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/at-the-tomb-of-jesus-november-14/

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Acts 26:24-32: Madness

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Flemish Tapestry: Saint Paul Before Porcius Festus, King Agrippa and his sister Bernice

While Paul was speaking in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “You are mad, Paul; much learning is driving you mad”.  But Paul replied, “I am not mad, most excellent Festus; I am speaking words of truth and reason”.

For a number of days we have been examining the life of Paul and how he responds to God’s call.  In many ways he appears mad or crazy for Christ Jesus in that he puts aside all fear for himself in order that he do as God asks.  Paul trusts the guidance of the Spirit and for this reason he has turned himself over to the plan God has in mind for him and for all humanity.  Paul trusts God’s motives, God’s perceptions, and God’s wisdom, and in this way Paul leaves nothing to chance.  He places his fire-forged faith, his outrageous hope and his generous love in the one place that will always increase and never diminish him . . . Paul places all he has and is in God.   For this, many call him mad . . . even though Paul speaks words of truth and reason. 

Those who witness God’s goodness at work among them are amazed by what they see; yet they fear they do not have this same strength or courage.  Rather than join Paul they scoff at him, and call him mad. They do not understand that Paul has opened himself to God’s in-dwelling and has left behind his reliance on money, power and fame.  It is impossible for Paul to return to his old ways and so Festus and the world call Paul mad.  So will we be called once we step into the world of discipleship.

We have looked before at this portion of Acts but today we focus on the last lines of this chapter to think about Paul’s decision to petition an audience in Rome.  What we learn here is that it is impossible to be a stealth Christian.  Paul knows he must go to the center of the empire to speak aloud God’s truth and reason so that all may hear his testimony.

When we respond to God’s truth and reason we will meet derision.  When we become the light with Christ we must expect opposition . . . and we must not shrink from speaking out to Caesar.  When we live in the light we must expect to go to Rome.

We have thought about this often: the high price of apostleship, the heavy burden of discipleship, the cauldron of life we step into when we agree to bring Christ to others.  We see Paul move forward, asking to be counted rather than dismissed.  We watch as he brings Christianity to the world . . . and to us.

Paul does not shy away from notoriety as a follower of Christ.  How do we follow his example in the work lunch room, at family gatherings, in intimate conversations with friends?  Do we ask to go to Rome so that we might speak before Caesar?  Do we readily step into the light to own our madness?

As we move through Eastertide, let us consider our madness which is not the tragic madness of Shakespeare, nor the clinical madness diagnosed and recognized by the medical world.  Let us ponder madness that leads to eternal joy and so allows itself to be seen.  Let us meditate on this madness that is the sensation of resurrection, of rapture, of sublime love.  Let us wonder if we might share in the kind of madness that asks to go to Rome to stand before Caesar and declare itself.

Ruins of Rome

And let us pray . . .

The cost of our madness has already been paid: the high price has been set forward by Christ – he has purchased us, his pearl of great price.

The weight of our madness has already been lifted: the yoke has been taken up by Christ – he has redeemed us, his sheep.

The intensity of our madness has already been counterpointed: the profound strength has been provided by Christ – he has entered hell and risen to restore us, his beloved.


A re-post from May 6, 2012.

First written on April 6, 2009.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To see detail of the Flemish tapestry above click on the image or go to: http://www.dia.org/object-info/89a92d3c-260b-4ceb-b37b-baa8a1b5e7e3.aspx

For another reflection on madness for Christ read the Agrippa Hears Paul post on the blog. 

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