Tuesday, September 13, 2016

13 September 2016
They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. Acts 16:6-10 (NRSV)
When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus. John 12:9-11 (NRSV)

            Good morning, welcome. Today we leave God and Job to their discussion and turn to Paul and Silas in Macedonia; and to Jesus and Lazarus entering Jerusalem. In Paul’s time Macedonia was a Roman province in southeastern Europe, north of Greece; Philippi was the capital city. Acts tells us Philippi was not Paul’s first choice. The Holy Spirit forbid him to go to Asia. The Spirit of Jesus did not allow him to go to Bithynia. God, through a vision, called him to Macedonia. Note the phrases Luke uses-Holy Spirit, Spirit of Jesus, God. This is a clear reference to the Trinity and I can’t help but wonder why Luke would refer to God in this way (don’t be too quick to rush to judgement here; the answer might not be as simple as you think). At any rate, we are seeing the outward expansion of the gospel, under God’s direction.
            And so Paul and Silas find themselves in Philippi, by the river, the place of prayer, on the Sabbath, preaching to an audience of women. An unlikely place; an unusual audience. One of them, Lydia, was a dealer in purple cloth. Purple, the color of royalty. Luke tells us the Lord opened her heart; she and her household were baptized. She says to Paul ‘if you have judged me a faithful servant’-reminiscent of Abraham in Genesis 18. Interesting to note here both speakers, people of wealth and influence, refer to themselves as servants. What we see here is that conversion is God’s work from start to finish. Since we never know who will be receptive we should never rule anyone out. We also see hospitality is good. Remember, it isn’t just inviting people into your home; it is sharing your life and in the process sharing God as well.
            The Gospel for today, despite describing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, is not quite so cheerful. Calling Lazarus back from the dead was, in a sense, the beginning of the end for Jesus; the proverbial last straw for the Pharisees. Jesus enters Jerusalem as the prophesied King of Israel but He is not bringing the Kingdom the crowd expects. Lazarus himself has become a liability. The whole world may be going after Jesus today; by the end of the week it will be a different story.
            There is a bit of a paradox here in that the religious leaders are moving God’s plan forward even though they recognize neither God with them nor His plan. Indeed they are totally unaware of their own key role. All this may be interesting but how does it help us in our day to day lives? By reminding us relationship with God is so much more important than knowing about God. We are seeking to know and accept, not control or manipulate. Prayer may enable us to work with God to determine the outcome of events but God will never violate His own nature in the process.
            Take some time today to open yourself up to God’s presence. Do you feel some small tug in one direction or another? Has God sent you to a place where you did not intend to go? To people you did not intend to see or, worse, whom you do not even like? Good. Someone there needs you. Or Him. Or both.
May the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit guide you this day. JRG


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