The View from the Vicarage: Sticking to Religion

Welcome to my blog as I travel through the key moments of the early church in the Acts of the Apostles, if you have been travelling with me we were last in Athens with Paul before taking a detour back to the Ascension. Today we move from Athens to Corinth as we find Paul wrapped up in more controversy in Acts 18:1-17.

Corinth was always going to be a difficult gig, it was a huge commercial city that came with its own sense of arrogance, a place that would not be told. It was also a hive of sexual immorality. This is a place where Paul becomes scared, he speaks out in the name of Jesus Christ speaking to the Jewish believers about their messiah – they reject him with such vehemence that he feels he must leave.

In a dream God speaks to him, reassures him of his protection and convinces him to continue this mission, We know from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians that this never became an easy task. Paul goes on to preach to the gentiles in Corinth and is hauled before the proconsul by the Jews in an attempt to quieten him for ‘speaking against the law’

In the court case that ensues Gallio the pro-consul refuses to listen, he absolves Paul and gives him the protection of Roman law and the freedom of speech which will form a precedent that will later see the Roman Empire accept Christianity as its own religion and transform the Empire completely.

The opposition in Corinth in both this reading and the letters seems to stem from the fact that believing in Jesus is going to change the way people feel, work, act – that you cannot say you believe and not let it impact upon your life – in essence this Christianity is too much cant we just stick to religion.

The church is often told to ‘stick to religion’ and not speak out and yet the very act of sticking to religion IS to speak out and challenge the world around us, why? Because there is a better way to live and be, a way that looks to the other, that cares for the earth, that seeks to challenge the unjust structures of our society. God loves each and everyone of us, he created us in his image and there is so much more to life for us all, Christianity is life changing and world changing.

For William Wilberforce ‘sticking to religion’ meant speaking out against the transatlantic slave trade that dehumanised millions, most of the foodbanks in the UK are run by churches or church partnerships, this is because ‘sticking to religion’ means feeding the hungry and speaking out against poverty for the Christian Church.

That is the church we must be in our day, there is nothing new under the sun, it was the same for the prophets, for Jesus and St Paul – we need to ‘stick to religion’ by reaching out in love and in challenge to a world that is hurting, a world that needs to know Jesus as it’s Lord and Saviour.

So I leave you with a hymn as always:

Jesus Christ is waiting,
Waiting in the streets;
No one is his neighbour,
All alone he eats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am lonely too.
Make me, friend or stranger,
Fit to wait on you

Jesus Christ is raging,
Raging in the streets,
Where injustice spirals
And real hope retreats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am angry too.
In the Kingdom’s causes
Let me rage with you.

Jesus Christ is healing,
Healing in the streets;
Curing those who suffer,
Touching those he greets.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I have pity too.
Let my care be active,
Healing just like you.

Jesus Christ is dancing,
Dancing in the streets,
Where each sign of hatred
He, with love, defeats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I should triumph too.
On suspicion’s graveyard
Let me dance with you.

Jesus Christ is calling,
Calling in the streets,
”Who will join my journey?
I will guide their feet.”
Listen, Lord Jesus,
Let my fears be few.
Walk one step before me;
I will follow you. *

Your friend and vicar

David

*©1988 WGRG, Iona Community, Govan, Glasgow G51 3UU, Scotland

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