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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, September 17, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 13:44–52

The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region. So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (NRSV)

When was the last time you lost sleep because you were dwelling on the past—something you said or didn’t say, something you did or didn’t do? Or because you were dwelling on the way things are and convincing yourself they will always be that way? That can be stifling. It can prevent any progress, any change in behavior, or any attempt to face our worries or fears. I’ve had plenty of those moments when I’ve had to bring myself back to the reality that I do have control over my response, that I can alter situations in the future. I don’t have to be stuck in the past.

Paul and Barnabas already know the drill. In today’s scripture they’re traveling to bring the good news to long-established temples, and they are met with a lot of refusal and dismissal for Christ’s teachings. Some defended their traditions against Paul and Barnabas’s suggestion of following a new path. However, this invitation became an opportunity of grace to the Gentiles.

Paul and Barnabas, despite the rejection they encountered, were committed to their mission of spreading the gospel. And they found the open arms of those who were previously persecuted or cast out by the longstanding tribes already in the community. They continued looking for—and found—hope in a new perspective and new way of life. They knew that with God’s guidance they could bring change and hope to those they met, even if they were met with resistance along the way. They allowed themselves to be freed from the past and focus on a mission of mercy to those who never faced that opportunity before.

God of mission and mercy, guide us to follow you on a path of hope as we encounter challenge and resistance. Allow our hearts to be open to change, and keep us steadfast on our life missions. Amen.

Written by Jackie Lorens Harris, Director, Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center

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