Catching up on the reading plan with Acts chapters 16 and 17 after being gone on retreat and away for some much needed rest and relaxation last week...
In chapter 16, we read about how Paul heals a slave woman of a "spirit of divination," that had made her owners a lot of money through fortune telling. These verses tell us about the owners' reaction to what Paul and Silas had done:
19But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. 20When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” 22The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. (Acts 16:19-22, NRSV)
In chapter 17, we read about Paul teaching in the synagogue, where he told his audience, “This is the Messiah, Jesus I am proclaiming to you! Jesus is Lord.” In other words, he was basically saying, “Hey, you know that Yahweh who is mentioned in the Scriptures (what we know as the Old Testament)? You know, the divine name of God that is translated as ‘Lord’ and mentioned 6,000 times? Well, that’s Jesus. And, Jesus is Lord.”
5But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house. 6When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, 7and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” 8The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this... (Acts 17:5-8, NRSV)
Two stories, each about Paul and Silas spreading the gospel message of Jesus Christ, each ending with the same reaction from the crowds gathered in the local marketplace:
“THEY ARE TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN!”
Don’t you just love that? It sounds so scandalous! This bold declaration that “Jesus is Lord” had literally turned the world upside down.
And that, my friends, is exactly what the gospel message is supposed to do...turn our “worldly” understandings upside down.
To begin with, saying “Jesus is Lord” affirms a life of personal transformation. It is saying that my heart and my life are forever changed…I am no longer conformed to this world, but transformed. It should also go further than that…saying “Jesus is Lord” should be culturally subversive.
Saint Augustine is quoted for saying, “Christ is not valued at all unless he is valued above all.” I take that to mean that Christ alone has divine superiority, authority, and power over anything this world has to offer. So, saying “Jesus is Lord” becomes scandalous and subversive when we think about all the people and things we, and the culture around us, tend to put on pedestals...things we might value above Christ.
When I began to discern my calling to pastoral ministry, my world was turned upside down. I thank God every day for changing my heart and my life and for calling me.
How about you?
Like Paul and Silas, may we too unabashedly proclaim, "Jesus is Lord!" Together, let's turn the world upside down.