The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
Sometimes scholars will talk about “continuity” and “discontinuity” as they study the Scripture. This is simply a fairly specific way of saying whether something in the New Testament continues to be the same as it was in the Old Testament or if it changes. Acts 11:27-30 shows considerable continuity with the Old Testament.
We remember many times from the Old Testament when prophets would go here and there, telling how God’s people should understand what God has said. Sometimes, though not that often, they would predict some future situations.
In these verses, prophets come from Jerusalem to Antioch, where we are still following Barnabas and Saul. One Agabus, who we will also see later in Acts, predicts a famine. The author of Acts is quick to remind us that the famine did, in fact, happen under Claudius.
The Christians did exactly what we would expect. We hope Christians would still do the same today. Persuaded that the prophet was correct, they gathered an offering for the people in Judea. After all, those people will need help when the famine hits. Christians have had a long and distinguished history of charitable works. It’s important to God’s priorities that we feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and proclaim the forgiveness and peace provided in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Notice that the people in Antioch sent the money, not to a government representative, and not even to the apostles. They sent it to “the elders.” Elsewhere in the New Testament, this term is usually used to refer to pastors. Care for the needy may well want to go through pastors. Why is this? It’s because normally where there is hunger there are other needs as well. In the parish, pastors who are visiting the sick and the unemployed often find that there are far more serious problems. We find people who are depending on themselves rather than on God. We find people who fear that God will not provide for their need. We find people who are afraid for the well being of their family. We find people who wonder what will happen if they never find work again. The elders are exactly the kind of people who should go and bring help to those in need. They will often find more help to give, meeting the needs that only an elder in Christ can meet.
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