Ed, my old neighbour in Saskatchewan, shared with me yesterday about the burial of a mutual friend at Melville. Ed reported that a downpour of rain forced the minister to be brief, which he saw as a blessing. Ed believes clergypersons presiding at weddings, funerals and graveyard services need to limit themselves in two ways: a few sincere, kind words and brief prayers.
Ed’s few words and brief prayers reminded me of the story by the famous author Ernst Hemingway. He was in competition with his friends about who of their group could write the best six-word story. Hemingway won with the legendary story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Since Hemingway, we have the writing of flash fiction, which is telling a story in a maximum word count.
I asked Ed if he had chosen a few words for his tombstone summarizing his life. Ed said he wasn’t sure he could reduce his life to six words. I told him that it would be better to leave his comments than let someone else sum up his life.
Ed flashed a grin and said, "Had Health Insurance; It Didn't Help." Then he asked me if I had anything better. I offered, “No Crop Insurance; Eying the Weather.” He responded that it makes me sound like every other grain farmer. I suggested he might want to get Ruby's opinion, but Ed said she might be too blunt.
During the Easter Season, the first scripture readings on Sundays are typically from the book of Acts. This book of the Bible pictures the spreading of the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ from Jerusalem through the eastern Mediterranean lands to Rome. We see the development of communities of believers in Christ among both Jewish and Gentile people. The growth of groups of Christian believers was due to both the apostles' and evangelists' witness and the Holy Spirit's convincing power upon those hearing the gospel. The book of Acts, often highlights the need to go where God sends. Once you get there, preach, baptize, live, bless, and warn in Christ's name.
Paul is an essential person in the book of Acts. He was temporarily blinded on the road going to Damascus. In his blinding, he was confronted by Jesus because Paul was persecuting believers in Him. Paul went from denying Jesus as the Son of God to becoming a missionary to the Gentiles so that they might believe in Jesus as he did.
In Acts 16:2:1-8, Paul, with his helpers Silas and Timothy, received direction from God that they needed to go to Macedonia to preach the gospel there. They travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. They preached to a group of women gathered for prayer by the river on the Sabbath. Among the women was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to the gospel, and she and her household were baptized. Lydia invited the men to stay at her house.
Lydia was an incredible blessing to Paul and the community of believers in Christ that developed at Philippi. As Christians today, wherever we are, we still have the six words of Acts to follow. Go, Preach, Baptize, Live, Bless, Warn.