Outrageous Good News – Br. James Koester

Acts 18: 1-8

Something fascinating, and even outrageous is happening here in Acts, but it is nothing new. We have seen this before. We have seen it throughout Scripture, in Old and New Testament, in the story of Jesus, and the story of the prophets before him. Once again, we see it today in story of Paul.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed and reviled him… [he] said to them…’[from] now on I will go to the Gentiles.’ Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshipper of God….[1]

We often gloss over the significance of this, just as we miss the context, when we forget similar occasions when something like this happened.

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, ‘Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.’[2]

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.[3]

So too do we miss the scandal they caused among the faithful.

And [Jesus] rolled up the scroll … and sat down … Then he began to say to them … the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when … there was a severe famine … yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. … When they heard this, all … were filled with rage. They got up … and led him to the brow of the hill … so that they might hurl him off the cliff.[4]

It happened to Elijah. It happened to Jesus. It happened to Paul. Whenever the good news of God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness are proclaimed to someone other, someone different, someone foreign, someone strange, the “faithful” take offense, and are scandalized.

But we forget something. We forget something about ourselves. We forget that we were once other, different, foreign, strange. We forget that once it would have been outrageous for the good news of God to be spoken to us. That someone, whether it was Paul, or Jesus, or Elijah, or some unnamed person, had the courage to withstand the outrage of the ‘faithful’, and speak God’s word of hope to us, should be a source of joy and thanksgiving.

There is a lot of outrage in the church these days. It seems there always has been. Maybe, just maybe, that’s a sign that someone, somewhere is doing the right thing.

[1] Acts 18: 5 – 7

[2] 1 Kings 17: 8 – 9

[3] Mark 7: 24 – 26

[4] Luke 4: 20ff

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  1. Robin Carlo on May 26, 2023 at 12:28

    I couldn’t love this more. In this time of persecution for so many in the LGBTQ community, it is helpful to remember that the “faithful” have a history of taking offense when the “other” is shown mercy. Thank you for this wonderful reminder of how human nature works.

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