8/17/23 Devotional from Ed
August 17, 2023
Scripture: Acts 21:27-36
27When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd. They seized him, 28shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. 31While they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32Immediately he took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. When they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33Then the tribune came, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; he inquired who he was and what he had done. 34Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35When Paul came to the steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Away with him!”
Devotional: Have you ever had an argument when you were determined to get the last word? You wanted the big finish, the mic drop?
We have that here in the second part of verse 28: “More than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” How dare Paul to be so bold and bring people into God’s house (remember the temple/sanctuary does not belong to us) who may be different, and notice how quickly were these individuals written off simply because they are "Greeks" or gentiles.
Over the past two weeks, many in our church family have sent children back to school or college, and any school administrator knows the importance of diversity within the student body. Fortunately, the classroom and extracurricular environments organically foster conversation and interaction with someone who is different.
I know we verbally stress the same in God’s church, but we also need to keep practicing it.
As we know, diversity extends well beyond race. Each person we encounter has different life experiences and different perspectives, and fortunately, we're not like the angry crowd in the Scripture reading above. Forest Lake Presbyterian welcomes all into God’s sanctuary each Sunday morning, but I believe God wants us to say more than “you are a child of God” and “God loves you.” The easiest (and most rewarding, in my opinion) way to get to know our church family is not just visiting our church sanctuary on Sunday mornings. God's church is a 24/7 shop – faith formation can happen any time, any place. Worshiping is essential and our faith’s cornerstone, but if you're looking for easy ways to get to know your church family, please remember our church campus will be full of different classes, small groups, and mission opportunities this fall. God’s church needs disciples to jump into the deep end and collectively grow in faith with people who may be different than us.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s church at Forest Lake Presbyterian is full of people of all backgrounds (Republican, Democrat, Tiger, Blue Hose, social worker, teacher, widower, for example), but our faith is strengthened and enriched when we take the time to go beyond the surface things we know about our sisters and brothers in Christ. We’ve followed in Paul’s footsteps by welcoming all, but let’s take the next step – learning from all we’ve welcomed while learning about God.
Try something new this fall! Get to know someone you only know by where they sit each Sunday morning. God’s church will be enriched.
Prayer: Holy God, when we learn from those who are different, we are reminded that you love all of us, regardless of our background. We pray for the strength to try something new this fall! Amen.