“After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila from Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers. Every Sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks.”
Acts 18: 1-4
Oftentimes the stories of the Bible feel like they happened “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.” But then there are these overlapping moments where the biblical story weaves into broader history. Italy, Athens- these are places we have visited, cruised in, and toured. We studied them in high school and learn of the contemporary stories in these lands. Tentmaking, while not a trade we pursue, is an everyday occurrence, stitching fabrics into a livable structure. It is relatable.
Paul the Apostle is no superhero. He is a man with a job, traveling on foot, looking for assistance and help wherever he can find it. Here he finds Aquila and Priscilla. They bond over their common work. They join his cause with Jesus. In other scriptures we learn they become important leaders in the Jesus movement.
The Word of the Bible is not distant from the world where we will live today. This was one of the reminders I received on my sabbatical in these months both from Karl Barth and Eugene Peterson.
In the early twentieth century, Barth preached, “God does not start with mass movements. He begins with a few individuals; and even among them different stages and degrees of preparedness and alertness for divine service are possible.”
And some sixty years later, Eugene Peterson says, “It is not through nations and armies, not through movements and ideas, not through laboratories and machines and computers that God does his primary work. It is through persons.”
People. Ordinary people. Paul. Aquila. Priscilla. Stitching tents together. Visiting real geographic places. It’s amazing and frightening because it might mean that you and I, in our ordinary lives, with our ordinary relationships, doing our ordinary tasks, might be swallowed up into the very salvation of the world.
Be alert this week, therefore, for we do not know when the voice of God will speak and from where it will come.
Come into our lives, O God,
whether we are ready or not.
Make our eyes to see a world
beyond what is visible.
Open our ears to the sound of salvation
above the distraction and conflict around.
May each thing we touch be seen as holy,
made by you and purposed for your glory.
-The Rev. Andrew C. Whaley, Head of Staff