Then he summoned two of the centurions and said, ‘Get ready to leave by nine o’clock tonight for Caesarea with two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride, and take him safely to Felix the governor.’ He wrote a letter to this effect:
‘Claudius Lysias to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, but when I had learned that he was a Roman citizen, I came with the guard and rescued him. Since I wanted to know the charge for which they accused him, I had him brought to their council. I found that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but was charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. When I was informed that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.’
So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him during the night to Antipatris. The next day they let the horsemen go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. On reading the letter, he asked what province he belonged to, and when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, ‘I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.’ Then he ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod’s headquarters.
The creation stories in Genesis show the propensity we have to pass the buck. God asked Adam why he was clothed, Adam blamed Eve who then blamed the serpent. The buck is passed in today’s reading – the Tribune shifts the problematic Paul along to Felix the Governor. A neat solution, he could get on with his work and stop trying to understand the theological squabbles of the Jewish Council and Paul’s sermons. Job done!
We see this passing the buck in our national life – energy producers say that the sky high prices are due to how the market is organised (why they can’t cut their prices voluntarily or pay more tax is beyond me), the government seeks to protect us from the worst but don’t want to increase tax on energy producers as that would, evidently, discourage investment. We can’t nationalise our industries as that’s bad but I pay my bill to a nationalised company – it’s just a French nationalised company….
Of course we’d never pass the buck would we? We’d never blame someone else for our own failings? We’d never try to blame circumstances for our weakness? We’d never blame God for what we do wrong would we?
Eternal God, help us to accept responsibility for our actions, to base our decisions on our values and have the bravery to stick with them, and to apologise when we get things wrong. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston, Minister for Digital Worship, member of the Peedie Kirk URC in Orkney