Week of Nov. 4: Continue to share the Good News, even when doors are closed on us

10/16/2012

 By Rev. John Brantley

Lesson for Nov. 4
Scripture: Acts 26:19-32
The Apostle Paul is called to lead people toward repentance. He takes this ministry and witness from the king to the emperor, speaking boldly toward that goal in all situations. On this occasion, he addresses repentance as the point of turning around back toward God. This 180-degree reversal of trust is the heart of repenting for us.
 It is the message of Paul’s personal journey and witness to all people in the world. His example lives as a model for our ministry today. Paul’s gift is speaking, questioning and challenging others to find their point of transformation. Some people will do this through persistent actions and service. But most will only hope their words and actions are transforming others. The powerful lesson here is not that Paul shares his faith. It is that he is persistent in faith sharing, even as his own reputation is diminished and eventually ends in arrest.
 We never find Paul making a single stand on a certain day and hope someone might get an idea. It is with all passion of life or death for himself and everyone, in Christ, that Paul reaches, from the top down, to call people to a new or restored relationship with Christ. This is true today. Some people who do not want to listen, change or respect Paul, will not heed our efforts. These challenges do no stop Paul’s faithfulness. Let us stand firm and faithful alongside Paul’s witness, even if it brings challenge or hardship.
 I cannot read this passage without thinking of the television show Gunsmoke. As a child, I would watch deputy and jailer Festus, portrayed by Ken Curtis, talking in a nasally drawl to Marshal Matt Dillon. I can imagine here our Paul stating his case to a different Festus. I imaging him having that same tone of voice as the television jailer: “Paul, you must be out of your mind,” he declares.
 There are clear times that our faithfulness speaks of God’s mind and not our own. The trust is not what is convenient for us. In this passage, Festus has heard enough from this fellow rustling up trouble. “I’ve heard enough” he says.  Actually he is saying, “I’ve heard all I am going to hear.” If he had heard enough, he would have continued listening until he found God’s message for him.
 When he didn’t want to do the work or change his mind, Festus shuts the door on what God has to say. What is our response when we hear someone closing the doors on God’s message? Does this end our responsibility for our ministry of speaking God’s message to all in the world?
 Paul reaches out to the king’s heart for the prophets. King Agrippa feels the tug as Paul appeals to the Torah and foundations of the faith. He feels the connection and becomes cautious.
 He is asking if he thinks Paul will transform him, a king, into a follower of Christ. Paul remains true to his mission, even in chains. Identify as a class where people are in chains for their faithfulness? To what extremes would we reach persons of different cultures, social and economic groups or religious groups to share the love and power of Christ?
Action Plan: Our highest allegiance is to God. How will we work and live together with political differences to share the transforming power of Christ this week?
Prayer: Oh God of power and grace, keep us faithful to the task of sharing your transforming of our hearts and the lives of those within our reach. Amen.
Hymn: "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross"
  


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