Submitted by Visitor (not verified) on Fri, 07/05/2010 – 12:51
Year C (2009-2010)
Bible Book: Acts / Handelinge
Chapter: 16
Verse: 9 – 15

Upon reading verse 13 (“On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river…”), another “river scene” automatically comes to my mind: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept…” (Ps 137:1). It is very clear that these two scenes describe vastly different emotions: with the latter it is the symbol of the wretchedness resulting from being exiled. In Acts 16:13, on the other hand, one hears the language of expectation: “…where we expected to find a place of prayer”. The one scene represents the language of hopelessness and desperation. The other scene … the language of hopefulness.

Acts 16 is a story that knows desperation: at first Paul and his travelling companions are prevented from spreading the Good News in the province Asia. But when it happened a second time, this time on their way to Bithynia, it must have – humanly speaking – set the missionaries thinking: Why is the Holy Spirit blocking us so repeatedly? And if this was still no cause for desperation, then verse 9 must have done it: in the vision a man is pleading with Paul: “Come over … and help us.”

This is where I wonder: what do the churches need to hear the plea from people around us who – like the man in Paul’s vision – are pleading: “Come over … and help us!”? Are these not the words that a child will use when he/she suddenly has to accept responsibility for the younger children in the family when both parents have died of AIDS? Is this not the cry we hear when statistics portray a steadily growing pandemic?

Interesting how these words “Come over … and help us”, suddenly “lift” the Holy Spirit’s former blockages: this is where help is needed … go! The vision of a Macedonian man standing and begging sets a missionary and his party in motion: “…we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us…”

Behind this pleading Macedonian Paul and his party hear Another: the Pleading God! “Come over … and help us”.

And then the surprise at the place of prayer (v13): people who are receptive (in this case women), ready for the work of the Holy Spirit. And the even greater surprise: those who respond to the call become the receivers of hospitality (v15 and 40).

If we continue being deaf to the plea, the destitute and neglected remain in the hopelessness of “… we sat and wept…”. By responding to the plea, the unexpected happens: hopelessness changes into hopefulness. And those who receive become the church’s gift!

To think about or discuss: The pleas of God with the church (as co-workers of God) have never, through all those ages, become still. In Southern Africa the context of HIV and AIDS creates an urgent plea with believers. What will “mobilise” churches to, like Paul and his friends, respond with a “Let us get ready and leave at once!”?

Author: R Bezuidenhout (Dr)
Language: English