Our first reading records words spoken by Paul in a synagogue in south central Turkey around the year 48 A.D. With readings like this, our minds usually glide along, getting very little of the gist of them.
I have a friend who is visiting our main jail where she is coaching people who would like to pass their high school equivalency exams. With those who had only a few years of primary school, she works hard at turning them into people who enjoy reading. With their being unfamiliar with one word out of every five they have been gaining only a vague idea of what they are reading.
My friend is trying to turn their thinking into movie projectors that roll the printed words like films onto their imaginations. She does that by having them flesh out one phase after another.
That synagogue in Antioch was a burnt clay structure twenty-five by fifty with a low wall down the middle, with the men hunkered down on the right, the women on the left. The furnishings up front consisted of the cabinet-like ark in which the Old Testament scrolls were kept. Then, against the front wall there was a half-circle of seats for dignitaries.
Paul was short and feisty, the survivor of beatings, shipwrecks, and day-long trudging. Like a coach at half time, he addressed his fellow descendants of Abraham. They were people like him who had been brought up on dreams of the promised Messiah.
“You need wait no longer! He came, curing every manner of disease, speaking tenderly to throngs of thousands; but arousing the jealousy of our religious leaders. Insidiously they turned him over to the Romans to be crucified.
“But listen to this, three days after being turned into a piteous corpse and laid in a stone tomb, he rose from the dead. I have seen him as clearly as I see you now. And he has sent me to you to say we no longer need to fear death. You have but to accept this dear Savior to be rewarded with unending life with God and with your departed loved ones.”