After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers. Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the official of the synagogue, became a believer in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized. One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.” He stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
In 1996 I was invited by the URC to help establish a “fresh expression” of Church based upon the redundant St Cuthbert’s chapel on Holy Island (Lindisfarne). This was an exciting prospect, but even before I arrived I became aware of a groundswell of hostility towards the project on the part of many islanders. Other Christian groups had recently also decided to set up camp on the Island and local people were, understandably, suspicious that their home was being turned into a religious theme park.
Four years on and the re-ordered St Cuthbert’s had not only been established as a place of welcome, hospitality and gentle renewal, it had also become accepted by the local community as making a legitimate, credible contribution to Island life. The reason for this was not down to powerful and persuasive argument, but to sharing the daily inconvenience of “tidal living,” and to the fact that re-ordering the building and garden had required from me and others a huge amount of very visible hard physical labour – something with which the Islanders could readily identify.
I wonder if Paul’s enduring success in Corinth was helped significantly by him starting out not just as a preacher but also as a tradesman and companion to those already in business. In that we might see that effective witness has less to do with persuasive words and rather more to do with authentic, credible living.
Loving God use the work of my hands and the love of my heart to validate the words I speak in your name. Amen
The Rev’d Ian Fosten is Team Leader for the Norwich Area URCs.