We live in times that try men’s souls, in a time of great conflict, strife, and division. We live in a time when civil discourse seems lost, in a time when battle lines are drawn and defenses are up, offenses are quickly taken. Respect is out the window and reviling of leaders and hurling accusations is the order of the day. And just when we are thinking we live in a unique time, in an unprecedented time, we read something from 20 centuries ago that sounds like today. Mobs are being incited, speakers are being interrupted and shouted down, authority is questioned and disrespected, and truth is being pushed aside for lies. Polarization is nothing new, divided opinions and worldviews are nothing new. There is nothing new under the sun, we live in a world divided between light and dark, truth and lies.
Paul and his companions, at least Barnabas and John Mark, left the island of Cyprus and sailed to the southern coast of Turkey, then walked about 12 miles inland to Perga, the capital of Pamphylia. They have moved from Barnabas’ native land to Paul’s native land. At Perga John Mark leaves them which will become significant later in Acts. It will be decades before John Mark overcomes the stigma of this desertion. From Perga Paul and Barnabas walk another 100 miles up to Antioch in Pisidia. I say up because this is a mountainous region, 3,500 feet above sea level. It gives one pause to consider how they walked everywhere and how far and not just easy paths. And in his letter to the Galatians, which is what this region is called, Paul tells us he was sick during these travels. Their first Sabbath there they go to worship at the local synagogue in a thoroughly pagan Roman city. Paul is invited to speak. What an invitation? Little did they know what they were setting in motion.
In a small way we are signaling a return to normal, as we return to our sermon series on the Acts of the Apostles, or as I like to say some of the acts of some of the apostles or the acts of the Holy Spirit. Three times in our text the Holy Spirit is mentioned, calling, sending, filling. This is the very word of God, only truth for faith and life. Expect God to speak as we read His Word. Prayer: Holy Father, your Word is our only firm foundation is this otherwise shifting, changing, unstable, uncertain world. Speak to us by your Spirit, equip and train us in righteousness for your glory and the sake of your Son. Amen. “But the Word of God increased and multiplied.” Why does Dr. Luke, the author of Acts, say that, or say it that way? What is implied behind that word, but? In spite of something, despite something, even though something else happened, still or nevertheless, the Word of God increased. What was the obstacle? That question gives us the invitation to quickly review the ground we have already covered in Acts. Since it has been almost a year since we were last in Acts, let me do a very brief summary.
What are we getting ready to do here? We are getting ready to sit down to the family meal. We are coming together at the invitation of our Lord to come as brothers and sisters to share His supper. When you are at home or at a family gathering, how does it feel to you when you come to the table out of sorts or at odds with someone else at the table? It doesn’t feel right, does it. The family meal is supposed to be a symbol of family unity, and when that unity is broken, we feel it in our bones, it just isn’t right. Paul spoke to similar issues with the Christians in the church in Corinth when they were taking communion.