Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Daily Devotion for Lent 2020 - Day 25

Scripture Reading: Acts 18:1-28 (NRSV)

This quilt hangs in the entryway of the
National Council of Churches USA office in NYC.
We see Paul on the move again and strengthening the church throughout the Mediterranean.  He founds the church at Corinth and we get to see several names of people that Paul mentions in his letters such as Aquila and Priscilla, Crispus who Paul mentions that he baptized, Sosthenes and Apollos.

We see Paul's standard movement to engage Jews in the synagogue to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah.  He also gets fed up as he states in verse six, "Your blood be on your own heads!  I am innocent.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles."

We see Sosthenes beaten for the faith - he must have left at some point with Paul because Paul includes him as writing to the church at Corinth at the beginning of 1 Corinthians.

We also see how there was not necessarily one doctrine of following Jesus in that time period.  It was so new and communication would be so limited that various movements could pop up without the knowledge or consent of the apostles.  Apollos knows of Jesus but had only received the baptism of John which was for repentance but did not include receiving the Holy Spirit.  Luke mentions as much:
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.                   Luke 3:15-16
This will become more apparent in the next chapter of Acts.  Division over who had the proper teaching would happen soon enough across the church.  When you think about how many different denominations (or non-denominations as if you could somehow move yourself outside of Christian history) there are today, you can see how easily it comes to humanity.  Paul seeks to curb this in the Corinthians when he writes in 1 Corinthians 3:3-4:
For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
This begs the question that if the Holy Spirit unifies rather than divides, is it a lack of the Holy Spirit within the church or are we merely not paying attention to its witness among us?  When we are divided physically and unable to meet with one another (as has been the case recently), there is often a longing to gather regardless of our differences.  Can arguments or disagreements be put in proper perspective of the greater work of the Holy Spirit?  Does this move us to greater love for our brothers and sisters even when they occupy a different place on a particular interpretation of scripture?

Prayer for the day:

From the cowardice
   that does not face new truths,
from the laziness
   that is content with half-truths,
from the arrogance
   that thinks it knows all the truth,
deliver us today, good Lord.

Prayer from the church in Kenya

Photo by Scott Lenger via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

All scripture quoted is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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