Tuesday, 25 Feb 2020
The Season of Epiphany
+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Opening: (A Collect for Epiphany)
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Reading: Acts 28 (NLT)
Paul on the Island of Malta
Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. he people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us.
As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.
Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us and treated us kindly for three days. As it happened, Publius’ father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed. As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip.
Paul Arrives at Rome
It was three months after the shipwreck that we set sail on another ship that had wintered at the island—an Alexandrian ship with the twin gods as its figurehead. Our first stop was Syracuse, where we stayed three days. From there we sailed across to Rhegium. A day later a south wind began blowing, so the following day we sailed up the coast to Puteoli. There we found some believers, who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.
The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he was encouraged and thanked God.
When we arrived in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.
Paul Preaches at Rome under Guard
Three days after Paul’s arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders. He said to them, “Brothers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Roman government, even though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors. The Romans tried me and wanted to release me, because they found no cause for the death sentence. But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges against my own people. I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could explain to you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel—the Messiah—has already come.”
They replied, “We have had no letters from Judea or reports against you from anyone who has come here. But we want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about this movement is that it is denounced everywhere.”
So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul’s lodging. He explained and testified about the Kingdom of God and tried to persuade them about Jesus from the Scriptures. Using the law of Moses and the books of the prophets, he spoke to them from morning until evening. Some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe. And after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul:
“The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet,
‘Go and say to this people:
When you hear what I say, you will not understand.
When you see what I do, you will not comprehend.
For the hearts of these people are hardened,
and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—
so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear,
and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them.’
So I want you to know that this salvation from God has also been offered to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.”
For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.
Greetings from Paul
This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker, and to our sister Apphia, and to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church that meets in your house.
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer
I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.
Paul’s Appeal for Onesimus
That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.
I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.
I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf. But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.
So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!
Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.
I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon.
Paul’s Final Greetings
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Philippians 1 (NLT)
Greetings from Paul
This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.
I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the church leaders and deacons.
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
Paul’s Joy That Christ Is Preached
And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.
It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.
Paul’s Life for Christ
For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.
Live as Citizens of Heaven
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
Paul’s Imprisonment in Rome
For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense.
He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.
And no one tried to stop him.
– Acts 28:30-31 –
Paul Proclaims Christ in Rome –
News of Paul’s arrival preceded him to Rome where he was welcomed and encouraged by a group of believers – the first Roman Christians that he had personally met. Finally in Rome, Paul was now able to minister in the heart of the Gentile world, as God had promised. Paul has built the vital bridge from Jerusalem to Rome and the Church is now on the march – nothing can stop it
Note: The Book of Acts ends around 62 AD, 29 years after the death and resurrection of Christ and the day of Pentecost.
Paul intercedes for Onesimus –
Paul wrote to Philemon from Rome. Onesimus may have been a runaway slave, or he may simply have been involved in some domestic trouble with Philemon in Colossae. Nevertheless, he eventually made his way to Rome. There, as God would have it, he came into contact with Paul and became a Christian – becoming a valuable helper to him. But Onesimus had to make things right with Philemon whom he had wronged. Paul appeals to Philemon to receive Onesimus back with kindness as a brother in Christ, not simply as a runaway slave. Christ Jesus has changed their relationship forever.
Paul Lives for Christ –
Paul also wrote his letter to the Philippians from prison in Rome. Paul wanted to thank the Philippians for their generous support, and explain to them how God was using his imprisonment to advance the Gospel. The letter is positive and personal, reflecting Paul’s joyful spirit.
I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.
For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.
But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ.
– Philippians 1:20-21 –
This affirmation succinctly summarizes Paul’s philosophy of life. For him, regardless of the decision about whether he would continue to live or die or the opinions of other people, saved or lost, his whole life revolved around Jesus Christ.
Historians debate the exact date or manner in which Paul died, but it is almost universally accepted that he was martyred. Based on historical events of the day, it is likely that Paul was beheaded, possibly around the same time that Peter was crucified. Given the political turmoil of the day, both apostles could have been caught up in a wave of attacks on Christians following a great fire in Rome. (Christianity.com)
Questions for consideration:
- Given the limitations of your own personal situation, what opportunities do you have to witness to your faith in Christ? Please explain.
- Have you ever worked with a person over a period of time, only to find out later that he/she was a believer? How did that change your relationship? Please explain.
- For me to live is…. How would you complete that sentence – family, fame, fortune, career, sports, something else? Please explain.
- What would you have to sacrifice in order to live or die for Christ? Please explain.
Prayer: Of Self-Dedication (William Temple}
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“To live is Christ” – Sidewalk Prophets
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen