Advent Devotion – Tuesday December 18
Rev. Dr. Robert Stephen Reid is an Emeritus Director of Master of Communication program in Organizational Communication and Leadership, University of Dubuque, IA
The End of Paul’s Story and Ours
Acts 28: 23-31
23 After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. 25 So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,
26 ‘Go to this people and say,
You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.’
28 Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” 30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)
Also see: Isaiah 11:1–9, Numbers 16:20–35
Just mention changing voter ID laws and blood pressures will go on the rise. Trying to restrict and marginalize voters to favor one group over another gets our ire up. The book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome, awaiting trial for preaching a message that believer ID laws should make faith in God available to all rather than a select few. That was the message he gave his life to advance. We hear him speaking to the local Jewish leaders of the synagogue in Rome, urging them to grasp that both Moses and the Prophets saw that a day would come when the believer ID laws of the Kingdom of God would be forever changed. He shared with them that Jesus was the promised one, the “candidate” who forever changed the rules for who could be counted among the elect people of God. With the cross, the rule and reign of God was redistricted for the good of all humankind. Jewish leaders should no longer teach that God belongs to only one race. The salvation of God belongs to all who will listen and believe.
Luke leaves the story there, but it doesn’t end there. Just as a biographer of John F. Kennedy ended his book with the presidential couple joining Governor Connally and his wife for the motorcade through Dallas, Luke’s readers knew what happened to Paul. Luke ends his story with the message that does not end: Paul’s Gospel of reconciliation with God—that all people, all classes, all races, all genders, all ages are welcome as God’s citizens. Thanks be to God.
O God, may the story of our life be told, like that of Paul’s story, in how we made a difference in people’s lives. Help us this, Advent, to reflect not just our own end, but the end to which our lives are recreated each day as we commit the day to you in service that welcomes all whom we meet as people worthy to be citizens of your loving care.