Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there for three days; then we weighed anchor and came to Rhegium. After one day there a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found believers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. The believers from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.
Reflection At the close of 1989 I was one of a group of members of Radnor Park URC who spent a week in the home of an Alexandrian Christian family as close friends of our then American minister. We attended services with the family but only whilst protected outside by a guardian with a machine gun. During that memorable trip we enjoyed many of the memorable sights.
Today’s passage describes Paul’s missionary journey on an Alexandrian corn ship from Malta en route to Puteoli, the Roman port and his apprehension about how he might be received there. There is scholarly debate as to why Paul never visited Alexandria on his journeys – perhaps because Barnabus (or his companion) Mark had already brought the Gospel to that city or because he believed it would not be received in that Jewish city’s “universalistic” religious ecosystem. Whatever the truth, Alexandria was one of the great Christian centres by AD 300.
The religious non toleration of Christianity in many parts of the world today continues – as it did when we shared with Christian friends in Alexandria 30 years ago.
Paul’s relief was evident when a deputation of Roman Christians came to meet him, assuring him that he was amongst friends.
The passage teaches us that Christians are never alone; that we are part of a world-wide fellowship; and that the Risen Christ walks with us wherever we go.
Prayer We bring before you, O Lord, the troubles and perils of people and nations, the sighing of prisoners and captives, the sorrows of the bereaved, the necessities of strangers, the helplessness of the weak, the despondency of the weary, the failing powers of the aged. O Lord, draw near to each; for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
St. Anselm (1053-1109)
The Rev’d Ian Gow, Minister, Eltham United Reformed Church.