URC Daily Devotion Thursday 24 November 2022

Thursday 24 November 2022  Acts 28: 23 – 31
After they had fixed a day to meet Paul, 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.  Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe.  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, “Go to this people and say, You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 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.” Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.’ He lived there for two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.


If Acts were a work of fiction, the final paragraph would describe Paul’s dramatic trial before the Emperor Nero, how, astonishingly, the Apostle completely won him over, the pagan gods of Rome were removed, the Roman Empire became a beacon for peace and justice and, with his work accomplished, Paul was awarded a Christian state funeral.

Instead there is no proper ending at all. From his house arrest, Paul goes on debating with argumentative Jews, as he has so often done before. This time the Jews are gathered from the many different Jewish groups in cosmopolitan Rome, drawn from all around the Empire: not so unlike a British city with numerous different Christian groups, some worshipping in languages other than English, all feeling marginalised by the society around them. He warns them that people they tend to look down on might hear what God is trying to say more easily than they do.
Perhaps as you approached a retirement or the end of a term of Christian service you had every intention of ensuring that the desk and laptop would be clear and all your objectives neatly ticked off. But it never happens like that. We rarely control the timescales or the outcomes. Some of what we most longed to achieve eludes us. We do our best and then pass on a cornucopia of unfinished business to those who follow on.

One speculation is that Acts ends where it does because it was written as a defence document for Paul’s trial before Caesar. If so, it was clearly just a stage in a continuing drama. Even if not, its end reminds us that the Acts of the followers of Jesus is not a closed book but a continuing adventure, always with another chapter in the making.    

Lord God
Thank you for the inspiration we find in the Acts of the Apostles: 
your Spirit working in ordinary people to equip them for extraordinary service.
Help us to find their confidence in depending on you and speaking what needs to be said.  
As their tasks have passed to our generation, make us faithful and bold.
And when our contribution reaches its conclusion, 
we seek not a blaze of glory but your closer presence. Amen. 


Today’s writer

John Ellis, Leader, West Kent and East Sussex Synod Area 


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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