At my church, when we are going through a book of the Bible, I never feel as if "I" have accomplished something or completed something... I always think of it as "we've made it through." In my mind... we worked our way through this, and this last book has been one of the largest undertakings of our Church: The Acts of the Apostles.
This morning, we will be completing our study of Acts. I believe that we started Acts in November of 2017. (You can find most, if not all, of the sermon recordings on our Edgewood Podcast.) We've had a couple of side notes along the way, but I believe that it adds up to almost 50 sermons. I've learned so much on this particular journey, and I hope that those who have attended Edgewood, a little over the last year, have also learned from this endeavor. I thought about typing a post with some of the lessons that we've learned... but that felt a little too overwhelming. Instead, I would like to share a small fraction of the lesson that I found for today.
Before I share, I would like you to know that what prompted me to type this particular post was when I was sitting here, at my desk this morning, marveling at how God has always been faithful to point me in the right direction when preparing for a sermon. When I started the week, I had an idea of what I might talk about, but as i progressed in my study, I found "the thing." (That is what I refer to, in my own mind, as the key piece that God is prompting me to focus on.) It has never, and I hope, will never, cease to amaze me how God directs this preaching preparation process.
This past week the lesson that I found was hidden in the next to last verse of Acts. Notice what it says,
"He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him..."
Acts 28:30 (ESV)
It is referring to him living in a rented home in Rome while under house arrest. He is waiting for his appearance before Caesar. But while there... he "welcomed all..."
Ben Witherington III, in his Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Acts, says this:
The word [all] is a very important one for Luke, and it is no accident he ends Acts by using it.
And as I studied the word "welcoming" I found that it is made of a prefix for space (or distance) combined with the word for acceptance. If I am correct, it is an accepting in of those that would normally be at a distance... hence the translation "welcoming". Paul is welcoming all... all sorts, all kinds, all temperaments, all personalities, all backgrounds, all classes, all races, all shortcomings, all... all... All are welcome.
There is a summary statement after that verse (Acts 28:31)... a statement that describes what that looks like and what that means... a statement that reiterates much of what has happened in Acts and characterizes the spread of the Gospel message... but that doesn't change the fact that the end of Paul's narrative is basically that he was welcoming all.
Oh... that we may be a church that is described this way, and may every single one of us be welcoming to all.