Didn't See That Coming...

A reading for Friday, May 12, 2017: Acts 11:19-30.

"It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called 'Christians.” It's easy to miss such an incredibly important statement, if we read it too quickly... it's kind of a surprise.

Antioch was an ancient city in what we know today as Turkey. It was the capital city of the Syrian empire for much of ancient times. Then in 64 BCE it was taken by the Romans and made into a trade and power center for the empire. In fact, in the first century, it was the third most important city in all of the Roman empire behind Rome and Alexandria.

It was in Antioch that Paul and Barnabas discovered a small Christian community. They did not plant the church there, but once Barnabas was aware that followers of Jesus were there he sent for Paul. The two made Antioch the headquarters of the Jesus movement to the Gentiles for years. So it was in Antioch and not Jerusalem that believers were first known as Christians. Why would God not place the title of Christianity on the lips of the believers in Jerusalem, the very place where Christ lived, died and was resurrected?

Sometimes things don't happen as we might expect. We thought we knew exactly what was going on. We might not like it. It was not supposed to be this way, we lament. Why would God not do it in the way we expected?

But then we remember that God's ways are not often our ways. Antioch gives the Gentiles a claim, as key stakeholders in the ancient movement of faith. Something incredibly important was happening in other parts of the world too, not just Jerusalem. Christianity was spreading to the very heart and center of the Roman empire. "It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called 'Christians.” We didn't see that coming, did we?

Lord God, we are grateful that you are always moving, always shaping us while at the same time including others into the message of hope, love and grace. Continue, we pray, to surprise us with what you are doing to spread faith in Jesus Christ. We watch for the ways we are to act in response to your movement. In Jesus name, Amen.


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