Acts 18: 1-17 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 worshipper 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 for a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal. They said, ‘This man is persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to the law.’ Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘If it were a matter of crime or serious villainy, I would be justified in accepting the complaint of you Jews; but since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves; I do not wish to be a judge of these matters.’ And he dismissed them from the tribunal. Then all of them seized Sosthenes, the official of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of these things.
Reflection What an interesting way to begin a ministry in a new town: get a job. I wonder what difference it would make to ministers (of government as well as religion!) if the first thing they had to do in each new place was slot into an existing business, not as the boss but as a humble worker, and pull their weight. Because I’m sure Paul did that. In his letters he often mentions the worthiness of honest toil – as another witness for the Christian life and the Lord. Who of course started life as a carpenter. Another man working with his hands.
I notice the increase of artisan bakeries and other ‘made by hand’ small businesses that seem to be thriving. Might it be that we are beginning to reconsider just how truly ‘good’ the industrial revolution has been – for us and the planet. And one commentary I read about Paul’s tentmaking mentioned that Tarsus was renowned for its linen which was made into sun awnings. Very relevant as our climate heats up.
Paul setting up his work alongside tentmakers Priscilla and Aquila earned not only his keep but his right to speak to the people of Corinth. I sometimes wonder if we get too caught up in church activities and events to connect in any real way with the people around us who need to hear the Gospel and discover its relevance in these very troubling times. And I wonder are we too cautious and need the encouragement of this reading to speak out about the issues of our times, including speaking truth to power?
Prayer Give us courage as we live in these troubling times to shine Your light of truth and hope into the darkness. May the people we meet see in us the reason for our hope and meet You, Lord of all hopefulness, Jesus Christ. Amen
Dorothy Courtis, lay preacher and elder, Wortwell URC.