Dictators beware -Wednesday, 4th Week in Easter – Acts 12:24-13:5


Dictators beware -Wednesday, 4th Week in Easter – Acts 12:24-13:5

Read also https://www.pottypadre.com/a-call-within-a-call-wednesday-4th-week-in-easter-acts-1224-135a/

View also a previous teaching by clicking on this link https://www.bing.com/ck/a?!&&p=bb76d5dfba185935JmltdHM9MTcxMzgzMDQwMCZpZ3VpZD0wODJmZjQzNS1kNjU2LTYyZGUtMjEzMi1lNzVmZDdjZDYzZjImaW5zaWQ9NTIxNQ&ptn=3&ver=2&hsh=3&fclid=082ff435-d656-62de-2132-e75fd7cd63f2&psq=youtbue+warner+wednesday+4th+week+easter&u=a1aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cueW91dHViZS5jb20vd2F0Y2g_dj1sUC0zaFZNVnhIdw&ntb=1


Between yesterday and today, the lectionary has skipped twenty-seven verses. It tells us of the power of the early Church, whose prophets predicted a severe famine which came to pass during the reign of Emperor Claudius sometime around 45-46 AD.  What is interesting is the Bible records the response of the Church. This perhaps is the first recorded ‘Christian Relief Effort.’ What is also interesting is that each was to give(not could give) ‘according to their ability’.  Here in lies the point; everyone can give something yet most choose to give nothing and I AM NOT disparaging the widows mite. To verify this, multiply an average of Rs 50 (which is the price of half a kilo of dal) against the total strength of the population in your Church. Surprised?

To crown this suffering of famine, the Acts records the second major persecution of the Church. The first began after Stephen’s martyrdom, and this one (12:1) is under the reign of Herod Agrippa. He has James the brother of John killed with the sword. (This is the only martyrdom of an apostle recorded in scripture.) He also has Peter arrested. What was the response of the Church to all of this? Acts 12:5 tells us, “The church prayed fervently.” This was not some one-day token fast announced by some Bishop’s conference but a dedicated call to prayer; prayer is not a sometimes, it is an always!

The passage also offers hope to Christians who suffer persecution. Dictators live in a world of delusion and the ride may seem great for a while. But while they may prop themselves on posts of power for several terms, death comes to all. Death came to Herod Agrippa and it was by no means a ‘peaceful death.’ He died unexpectedly in the year 44, after only three years of reign over Judea. He died while attending the Games of Caesarea in honour of the emperor. Patronizing the games, he appeared there in dazzling silver finery in front of the crowd who acclaimed him and compared him to a god, a blasphemous remark for a Jew against which the king did not then protest. If all this sounds even faintly familiar, take heart and consolation that God is in charge.

This brings us to the text of today which begins with the words “BUT the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents. (12:24) How consoling are the Acts of the Apostles to all Christians who suffer persecution. We should announce this good news to the world, reminding men and women of faith that may kill the body but you can’t kill the soul. Even more, the word advances and thrives when Christianity is lived. Members of the clergy and the laity must rely on the help of God and not willfully choose a life of servitude to political masters.

The text tells us that five leaders in the Church of Antioch were hailed as prophets and teachers. The text of today names them and one of them was even a member of the court of Herod. Scholarship is not clear as to his identity but does tell us the meaning of his name, which is ‘consoler.’ But in him, we see a man unafraid to walk out from the courts of luxury, from the halls of power and even incur the wrath of one to whom he swore loyalty. Following the cross is not a matter of Sunday devotion but a devotion that calls you to leave everything you once cherished.

Yet while the Church of Antioch had five leaders, we are told that the Holy Spirit chose only two; Saul (notice he is still called Saul) and Barnabas. This was not an appointment by a hierarchical organization rather this was truly the work of the Holy Spirit. This entire ‘conclave’ was marked by prayer and fasting. God speaks to us when we are with him and not when we consult him at intervals in our lives. It is God who ‘set apart’ Barnabas and Saul. Note that up to now, Barnabas is always mentioned first and then Saul. Barnabas was respected over Saul even though the author of the Acts of the Apostles was a companion of Saul.

The text of today leaves us with the beginning of the first of the three missionary journeys of Saul and will cover chapters 13 and 14. This missionary journey will take Barnabas and Saul to Cyprus. This was no vacation on some island in the sun. From the minute they landed, they hit the runway. On this journey, they take with them John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark and the cousin of Barnabas. It is in his house that Peter took refuge when the angel of God released him from prison.

The Church was missionary at its inception. Sadly, it has now become institutionalized. Perhaps our structures seem to have grown deep roots and with-it immobility. At its heart, we are called to be a missionary Church and the word of God must be spread. I choose to write; you can choose to forward this text. In doing so we become evangelizers.

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