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.”
It’s easy to get our priorities wrong. Sometimes they go very badly astray. In Acts 28:7-10 we see an example of an opportunity to do well or badly. After being shipwrecked on the island of Malta, the apostle Paul finds out that the father of Publius, the leader of the island, was ill. Paul went and healed him. We are not told of Paul’s other actions in this instance. However, a close reading of Acts shows us that Paul’s work of healing is routinely accompanied by a proclamation of the Gospel in very clear terms. Paul always tells people about Jesus, but he doesn’t always heal them. But we have no idea of Paul healing people without telling them about Jesus.
This work of mercy, healing Publius’ father, not only provided an open door to bring healing and Gospel proclamation to many on the island, it also nurtured a favorable relationship between the shipwrecked people and the citizens of the island.
It’s easy to decide that the Christian response to poverty or hardship is bringing relief. The relief is needed, no doubt. And it’s certainly a good thing to help those who are suffering. But we need to remember that the primary task of Christian ministry is to proclaim Christ crucified for sins. That’s what we are all about. Our good works are filled up by the grace of Christ’s resurrection and life. Paul kept this absolutely straight in his work. By God’s grace, we can also.
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