(at Elk Run)
Acts 16: 9 – 15
21:22 – 22:5
John 14: 23 – 29
During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
Acts of the Apostles 16: 9 – 10
When he saw his vision inviting him to Macedonia, Paul and his companions were doing missionary work in what is now the nation of Turkey.
Last year (2018), the region called Macedonia enjoyed an outbreak of peace and good-neighborliness. People there ended a conflict between two regions which both wanted the name, “Macedonia.” On June 12, the “Macedonia” that was formerly part of the Twentieth Century nation of Yugoslavia officially changed its name to “North Macedonia,” thus reconciling with their neighbors in the other “Macedonia,” which is the largest administrative region in the nation of Greece.
Maybe you missed the news: the story didn’t feature anybody getting killed, or blustery threats and insults.
About one thousand, nine hundred and fifty years ago, Paul and his companions obeyed the vision and sailed to Macedonia. As far as we can tell from the Bible, this marked the first time the Good News of Jesus was preached in Europe. Also, this story is of particular interest within the Book of Acts, because at this point, the author, “Luke,” becomes a participant in the narrative: in verse 8 he refers to Paul and his companions as “they,” but then in verse 10 he begins to say, “we.” Paul, Silas, Timothy, Luke, and perhaps others set out to share the love of Jesus with folks who had not heard.
The city where Paul and his companions arrived in Macedonia was Philippi. Although it was located in what is now the nation of Greece, in those times it was an extremely Roman city— a little Rome, in fact. Military officers appointed by Caesar were its top leaders, and much of its populace consisted of Roman soldiers and their descendants. But what Paul and his companions brought to Macedonia was the truth, that Jesus Christ is the real king over all peoples. They began spreading their message outside the city walls, by the river, where the women went to wash clothes and relax. It was there that a woman named Lydia made a commitment to follow Jesus, and was baptized with her entire household. Lydia was not from Macedonia, but rather from what today is Turkey. She was wealthy, a businesswoman, specializing in purple fabric at a time when purple dye was extremely costly, precious. And the first thing Lydia did after giving her life to Jesus Christ was to invite Paul and his companions to set up a church in her home.
Thank God for people who cross borders, who try new things, and who strike up new and unlikely friendships.
It was proud idolatry that led to the division of humanity into separate nations (Genesis 11). It was the blessing of God’s Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost that cancelled that old curse (Acts 2). Ever since then, God’s people have been skeptical of human borders and differing outward appearances. In the victory of God’s peace and righteousness, God’s people will no longer fuss about which language a person speaks or the color of their skin or their gender, but regard and treat one another as fellow children of God.
This past weekend, we did not get to hold our Annual Meeting, which is provided for in our Church Constitution. But in the run-up to Sunday, I enjoyed reviewing our Constitution and By-laws. I feel it would be good to focus afresh on the part of our church Constitution called PURPOSE (Article II):
“The avowed purpose of this church shall be to worship God, to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to celebrate the Sacraments; to realize Christian fellowship and unity within this church and the Church Universal; to render loving service toward mankind; and to strive for righteousness, justice, and peace.”
It seems to me that, as we work to fulfill that purpose, we will receive these gifts from Jesus, which he promised in John 14: 23 and 27:
"Those who love me will keep my word,
and my Father will love them,
and we will come to them and make our home with them."
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled,
and do not let them be afraid."