Friday, September 17, 2010

Acts 19 -- "Life, the universe, and everything."

In the farcical fantasy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe,[1] intelligent beings spend billions of years creating the ultimate computer to answer the ultimate question: "What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?" And the ultimate computer gives them the answer: 54. They should have asked what the ultimate question was first, you see.

Does your message sell itself? Does it "have legs?"[2]

Once again, Paul goes to the synagogue, and presents the message of the King, the Messiah who has come. Once again, within a few months envious rivals cause trouble, so he goes somewhere else.
Act 19:9 Ne var ki, bazıları sert bir tutum takınıp ikna olmamakta direndiler ve İsa'nın yolunu halkın önünde kötülemeye başladılar. Bunun üzerine Pavlus onlardan ayrıldı. Öğrencilerini de alıp götürdü ve Tiranus'un dershanesinde her gün tartışmalarını sürdürdü.
Act 19:10 Bu durum iki yıl sürdü. Sonunda Yahudi olsun Grek olsun, Asya İli'nde yaşayan herkes Rab'bin sözünü işitti.
Contemporary records suggest that Paul taught for an hour or two around lunchtime, day after day. Since Ephesus was a commercial and banking center for Anatolia, people who came and heard his message took it elsewhere throughout the subcontinent. Within two years, the Good News of the Great King had reached everyone.

As a communications scholar, I have to wonder what Paul taught for those two years. Did he repeat the same "Four Spiritual Laws" day after day? Expound on John 3:16 every time he got up? Obviously, he didn't preach a long course of study over the course of the two years, since those who heard his message were able to run with it, taking it back home and applying it where they lived. My guess? Paul had a central point that explained everything else in a new and fresh way. King Jesus rules. Therefore ...

People probably came to Efese on business, stayed a few days, and returned home.[3] During this time, those who responded to Paul's message could pledge their allegiance to it, by accepting baptism, and watch Paul's approach to exposition.

I suspect Paul followed a liturgical calendar, a pre-existing series of specified readings from the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. No need to re-invent the wheel. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.[4] His perspective on these readings, however, was different, now that the divine intervention they pointed to had happened. His new perspective was exciting enough to engage the passions of those who embraced it, and to transform them into ambassadors of the Great King, and agents of His Kingdom.[5]


[1] This was originally a series of half-hour radio broadcasts, that later became a series of books, losing something in the translation process, and finally audio files of the books being read, losing a bit more. Does anyone know where I can find MP3 files of the original radio series?

[2] Journalists say a story "has legs" if it has enduring interest, beyond the current day's edition or broadcast.

[3] If you travel through a rural area, you will normally find a crossroads village every 10 miles, and a somewhat larger urban center every 30 miles. If a country store is always within a five-mile distance, you can get there on foot and back in the same half of a day. For seasonal items, you can go to the county seat, stay overnight, and come back the next day.

[4] As a gifted Methodist profession rhetorically asked a class of aspiring preachers, "Do you find the text? Or do you let the text find you?" A successful American denomination, Calvary Chapel, has a policy of preaching through the entire Bible. Topical sermons tend to settle down into the half-dozen or so topics that excite a preacher. Expository sermons perpetually bring fresh insights, fresh challenges, to the pulpit.

[5] I love Turkish people, language, food, and culture, and hope to see that nation transformed into a globally significant center of Christianity. I think there are elements in the Turkish heritage that point in that direction. It is a courtly tradition with an imperial heritage. The idea of serving in the court of a majestic King fits both this tradition, and the message of the Bible, better than the American popular notion of Christianity being a religious experience, a nicer gnosis.

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