4 While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: 5 John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?”
7 Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
1 Paul and Silas journeyed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, then came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was Paul’s custom, he entered the synagogue and for three Sabbaths interacted with them on the basis of the scriptures. 3 Through his interpretation of the scriptures, he demonstrated that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. He declared, “This Jesus whom I proclaim to you is the Christ.” 4 Some were convinced and joined Paul and Silas, including a larger number of Greek God-worshippers and quite a few prominent women.
5 But the Jews became jealous and brought along some thugs who were hanging out in the marketplace. They formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They attacked Jason’s house, intending to bring Paul and Silas before the people. 6 When they didn’t find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city officials. They were shouting, “These people who have been disturbing the peace throughout the empire have also come here. 7 What is more, Jason has welcomed them into his home. Every one of them does what is contrary to Caesar’s decrees by naming someone else as king: Jesus.” 8 This provoked the crowd and the city officials even more. 9 After Jason and the others posted bail, they released them.
10 As soon as it was dark, the brothers and sisters sent Paul and Silas on to Beroea. When they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue.
For many, “Thessalonica” is just a strange name heard in church. Scholar William Barclay knew the city was crucial for sharing news of Jesus: “Thessalonica’s supreme importance lay in this—it straddled the Via Egnatia…. Its main street was part of the very road which linked Rome with the East…. If Christianity was settled there, it was bound to spread East along the Egnatian Road until all Asia was conquered and West until it stormed even the city of Rome. The coming of Christianity to Thessalonica was crucial in making it into a world religion.” * Paul used his grasp of the Hebrew scriptures and his speaking skill to win his Thessalonian hearers to faith in Jesus as “the Christ.”
Gracious God, your great redemptive story reached its central turning point in Jesus. When that story took root in Thessalonica, it was on its way to my life. Thank you for that. Help me to find ways to pass it along. Amen.
* William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 181.
** Wright, N.T. Acts for Everyone, Part Two: Chapters 13-18 (The New Testament for Everyone) . Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
I loved going to church camp in the summer when I was a tween. There were a number of less than ideal things about camp though: the institutional food (we sometimes weren’t exactly sure what it was), the water that smelled of sulfur (so much so that grape Kool-Aid didn’t cover up the smell), the heat, the bugs, the sunburns… What church camp had going for it, though, that far outweighed the uncomfortable or undesirable aspects, was the people. I firmly believe it takes a special person to willingly, and likely at their own expense (or loss of income) hang out 24/7 with a bunch of sixth graders for an entire week. We were smelly, mostly awkward and laughed far too loudly at cheesy jokes.
The people I always remember from church camp were the counselors who took the time to see us exactly as we were, who laughed at our corny jokes and listened carefully if we happened to get serious every now and then. I remember sand volleyball and belly flop contests; Bible trivia and talent shows. There were campfires and singing. Most of all there is one song that has resonated with me all of my years since those hot, muggy summers.
We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
And together we'll spread the news that God is in our land
And they'll know we are Christians
By our love, by our love
Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love. *
I do not have the gift of evangelism, and sometimes struggle to see how I can spread the good news and bear witness. The words of this song I learned so many years ago always come to mind when I’m not sure if or how I can share my faith with others. Someone took the time to love me as a sassy sixth grader and teach me the words to this song, but more than that, their gift of time, attention and love rooted it into my being and provided me with a roadmap to share my faith even when I don’t know what words to use.
I’ve had the privilege of working with our amazing team of volunteers as we support Advent Health in the mass vaccine clinics these past few months. Similar to the diversity of the people groups listed in this Scripture, our dedicated team represents the entire spectrum of our community. Many of these volunteers are long-time church members, some are members of other churches, some practice a different faith, and some claim no faith at all. While we don’t know what seeds we are planting for anyone who encounters these clinics, I have confidence that we are representing Christ as we open our doors to meet this need in the community.
Just as my middle school camp counselors did for me, by our investment of time, energy, care and love, we are being the hands and feet of Christ, caring for our brothers and sisters just as they come to us. We aren’t all gifted as preachers, but there are many ways to demonstrate your faith for those around you. Where in your life is there room to love a bit harder, care a little more and show up for someone else?
* Written by: PETER SCHOLTES. Lyrics © MUSIC SERVICES, INC.
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