Today is Thursday the 20 May, in the seventh week of Easter.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing: ‘We Nhliziyo yami’: ‘O my heart be wise when your enemies surround you. Keep praying; ask the Lord for help. For he is powerful. That is your weapon; do not lose it. Pray without ceasing, for the Lord is powerful.’
Today’s reading is from the Acts of the Apostles.
Acts 22:30; 23:6-11
Since the Tribune wanted to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire council to meet. He brought Paul down and had him stand before them. When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, "Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead." When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.) Then a great clamour arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended, "We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?" When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks. That night the Lord stood near him and said, "Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome."
Paul has the bright idea to throw out a statement that will divide his enemies. Jesus told his followers not to worry ahead of time about how to answer opponents. Do I take Jesus at his word? Do I manage not to be afraid of people who might ridicule me, or my prayers, or my religion?
Paul was defending what he knew, what he had seen, namely that Jesus had died but was alive, and forever. When Jesus speaks to you in consoling words, do you know him, then, to be alive? When he speaks in his words from the Gospels, are they words of life to you?
Paul had not planned what to say, but God gave him this idea of how to divide his enemies. As you listen again to today’s story, notice his confidence – a confidence we can have too. If we are challenged about God, or Jesus, or prayer, the Holy Spirit will provide the answer. We have his word for it.
The risen Lord Jesus said to Paul, "Take courage". You might want to ask the same Jesus now to give you courage, the courage of your convictions, and the trust that the Holy Spirit will be with you and give you the words you need.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.