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Reflections of a Lay Pastor: May 12th 2019: Hellenists

Reflections of a Lay Pastor: May 12th 2019: Hellenists

In Acts 9, Paul went to Jerusalem and had a hard time.  A lot of the disciples, who had stayed put, were suspicious of him.  Barnabus spoke up for him and smoothed his passage into the Christian fellowship there.  But Paul’s experience was different from the experience of those who had travelled with Jesus.  He felt that he had a revelation about Jesus, and a meeting with Jesus, just as important as the direct face-to-face experience of the disciples.  He tried to atone for his active participation in the stoning of Stephen by preaching Stephen’s version of the Gospel, but he could not win over everyone.  In particular, he had a disagreement with the “Hellenists”.  These were Jews who spoke Greek and who read what we now call the Old Testament in Greek instead of in Hebrew.  Some of them were Christians, more widely travelled than the Disciples and keener on spreading the Gospel to the wider (Greek-speaking) world.  They plotted to kill Paul – some argument!

We don’t really know what the argument was about, except that it was bad.  The Hellenists wanted to kill him.  It doesn’t sound as though Paul possessed sufficient “People Skills”, perhaps a bit abrasive, perhaps a bit arrogant? Presumably, all the persuasion of Barnabus was insufficient to dissuade his enemies even though they were “Christians”.

Paul had supporters, “They got him out of town, took him to Caesarea, and then shipped him off to Tarsus.” That does not sound as though Paul had much say in the matter.  They took him back to his home town where, presumably, he could be protected.  Imagine if the Helenists had succeeded and Paul had been an early martyr, like Stephen, but killed by fellow Christians!  We would have few Epistles and only half of Acts. That was a turning point in Christian history.

Most of our actions do not change history but all have potential to alter the course of human affairs.  Many children have become objectionable about adults’ behaviour, but Greta Thunberg’s strike has changed the debate about Climate Change.  Many elderly women have made a fuss about their treatment, but Rosa Parks changed America.  Many children were rescued from burning buildings, some went on to commit indiscretions in foreign lands, but John Wesley changed the face of Christianity.

So, let us never think that our actions have but small consequences.  Every action may have, with hindsight, enormous significance.  What might make a difference to the course of history today?  Giving up single-use plastics; campaigning for wind turbines on Baildon Moor;  adopting a child refugee;  ploughing up the lawn to grow your own vegetables?  I don’t know, but every one of us, at any age, has the possibility to tip the balance.

What is your plan of action?

About the Author:

Mervyn has worked as an engineer, as a teacher and headteacher in comprehensive schools, as a university lecturer and latterly as a dry-stone waller, and lay pastor of the church. He also serves as Eco Officer. His hobbies include walking and he leads holidays in Italy and here in the UK, especially holidays for families. He has been a local preacher in the Methodist Church for fifty years and has been riding motorbikes for slightly longer. He is married to the girl of his dreams and has several children and grandchildren of whom he is inordinately proud.

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