Monday 7th September

September 7th


Here I am Lord        Daniel L. Schutte (b.1947) sung by Eric Tom


Acts 11. 27-30

27 At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. 29The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; 30this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.


Human thunderbolts… passages chosen by Olive Freeman from ‘God and the pandemic’ chapter 4 ‘Reading the New Testament’ by Tom Wright (SPCK, 2020)


Acts 11 takes us to the church in Syrian Antioch, roughly three hundred miles north of Jerusalem. It’s a bustling, cosmopolitan city, right on the trade routes, with people from any and every country either resident or passing through…… Barnabas comes from Jerusalem to check it out then goes to find Saul (who becomes ‘Paul’) and brings him to help with the work of teaching and preaching.


It was around this time that travelling prophets arrived in Antioch from Jerusalem.  One of them, named Agabus, stood up and told the assembly what the spirit revealed to him.  There would, he announced, be a great famine over the whole world.  These things happened from time to time, as they had done nearly two millennia earlier, bringing Jacob and his family to Egypt.  Luke comments that the famine actually took place in the reign of Claudius (i.e AD 41-54)


So what do the Antioch Jesus-followers say? They do not say ‘This must mean that we have sinned and need to repent’ 0r even ‘this will give us a great opportunity to tell the wider world that everyone has sinned and needs to repent’  Nor do they start a blame-game, looking around at the civic authorities in Syria, or the wider region, or even the Roman empire, to see whose ill-treatment of the eco-system, or whose tampering with food distribution networks might have contributed to this dangerous situation.


They ask three simple questions.  Who is going to be at special risk when this happens?  What can we do to help?   And who shall we send?


So often when people look out on the world and its disasters they wonder, why God doesn’t just march in and take over.  Why, they ask, does he permit it? Why doesn’t he send a thunderbolt and put things right? The answer is that God does send thunderbolts – human ones.  He sends the poor in Spirit, the meek, the mourners, the peacemakers, the hungry-for-justice people.  They are the way God wants to act in his world.  They are more effective than any lightning flashes or actual thunderbolts.  They will use their initiative;  they will see where the real needs are, and go to meet them.  They will weep at the tombs of their friends.  At the tombs of their enemies.  Some of them will  get hurt.  Some may be killed. That is the story of Acts, all through. There will be problems, punishments, setbacks, shipwrecks, but God’s purpose will come through.  These people, prayerful, humble, faithful, will be the answer, not to the question Why? But to the question What?  What needs to be done here?  Who is most at risk?  How can we help?  Who shall we send? God works in all things with and through those who love him.



Thank you Lord that through every weakness and hard place, your strength is displayed in our lives. We can’t do it on our own. But you can, through us. Your power is mighty within us, you are our helper and our strength. All things are possible through you. Amen.




O Lord, you are the light that guides my feet.
You are the map that gives me direction.
You are the peace that makes me strong.
You are the leader whom I faithfully follow.
May your light illuminate my life
and your guidance bring direction.
May I find inspiration in your word
and peace in my heart as I follow you. Amen.


Beauty for brokenness        Music and Words by Kendrick (b1950)

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