So he’s made it, albeit that its been quite a journey. Paul has reached his final destination. His luggage is worn, his passport over-flowing with stamps and visas and the experiences of the past 20 years have taught him to greet every jobs-worth official and border guard with patience and a wry smile. Now one of the great minds of the ancient world who is about to face one final test, the highest court. Yet we find a man who is content, composed: for Paul has nothing to lose & nothing to prove.
As we draw towards the conclusion of our journey with Peter and now Paul, through this epic book, Paul will, once again, recount the story of faith which has determined his life.
The audience may have changed (Paul speaks now to kings and political rulers rather than Jewish ones), but the story and strength of his witness doesn’t dwindle; as it is quite large in him, the seam of faith running through the strata of his life.
What do these famous names all have in common? Tina Turner, Jamie Vardy, Rafa Nadal and Gazza? The answer? They all have autobiographies entitled ‘My Story’ (My favourite autobiography title is by footballer Alan Ball, ‘It’s About A Ball’).
Life stories of the famous fascinate us because we get to see what shaped people, what influenced them and made them the people they became.
Today we read the powerful testimony of Paul. Familiar in some ways, but if we listen carefully, we’ll see the influences which truly shaped him.
I have this principle to do with Christian faith which goes like this: ‘If Christian faith is true, then it can’t be true for some things, it must be true for all things. And if it is true for all things then it must impact how to parent children, how political influence should be expressed and even for economic policy.’ Todays passage is an example of how faith in God has a direct impact on economics. We are probably familiar with the idea of the market place, of profit and loss, of ‘win-win’ and the ‘gig economy.’ So what on earth does it mean to apply Christian faith to this and the world of economics.
In today’s story from Acts 19 Paul is in Ephesus—where the god Artemis is worshipped. (Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and twin of Apollo). Paul’s sharing of faith did not simply have religious implications but, as we shall see, meant that an economic bombshell was detonated as well.
Acts 19 is called ‘the Ephesian Pentecost’, the time when Paul taught the church there about the Holy Spirit and invited them to receive him. Rather than a faith based in synagogues and the Jerusalem Temple, they got to know God personally as he came to live in them. But with this blessing came great responsibility. The words at the top were spoken by Kate Coleman at our church weekend a few years back. They come to mind because just as our lives of faith are especially free of buildings at this time, so there is a particular challenge that each of us, filled with the Holy Spirit, should be sustaining and practicing our faith today, where we are.