As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.
My thoughts (Keith Phillips):
Before I retired, I was a chaplain. One of the places I worked was a hospice called Odyssey, which means journey. As our patients move toward death, we journey alongside them, providing medical, physical, emotional, and spiritual care. We focus on the journey, but sometimes I have to remind patients, families, and colleagues that every intentional journey (which is far different from just wandering aimlessly) has a destination.
Paul is finally reaching his destination, and it’s been quite a journey. Returning from his third missionary tour, he was delivering the offering that he’d collected for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. He’d told the Christians in Rome that he hoped to visit them on a fourth tour on his way to Spain. But he expressed concern about his reception by unbelievers back in Israel (Romans 15:22-33).
After a couple of riots, a near flogging, being imprisoned by the Roman guard, transported in chains across the Mediterranean, being shipwrecked, having been bit on the hand by a snake, Paul nears his destination of Rome. The journey has been a story of miraculous deliverance and divine intervention.
In today’s reading Paul stays the winter in Malta, three days in Sicily, a day at Rhegium, and a week near Naples. Apparently while in Naples, word was sent to the church in Rome that Paul, in chains, was on his way. The Roman Christians travel thirty to forty miles, probably on foot, to welcome him. I love the statement: “On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage” (Acts 28:15b).
The Acts of the Apostles is not about doctrine, or about right belief, or even the explicit teachings of Jesus. It’s about a new way of living; it’s about the Church, a community of faith composed of brothers and sisters who are filled with the Spirit of Christ. While in Rome, awaiting his execution, Paul writes the Christians at Philippi and tells them that they are a colony of heaven in the midst of another kingdom (Philippians 3:20). They are aliens in a strange land, something I can identify with. In Acts, the Church has become the content of the Gospel proclamation. The question being presented is not “What do you believe?”, or even “Do you believe?”, but rather “Will you join us?”
He “thanked God and took courage” because Paul in chains was not alone. He wasn’t alone on the journey, and he won’t be alone as he comes to his destination.
Thought for the day: I thank God and take courage because I am not alone, either on my journey or as I come to my destination. Who will thank God and take courage because I am walking beside them as a part of Christ’s church?
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.