Narrative Lectionary: Acts 13:1-3, 14:8-18
This passage has inclusion themes like the passage from last week, although here it is those worshiping Greek gods rather than Gentiles more broadly that are included. There is (again) the theme of people wanted to worship the bearers of the Good News, lending itself to the theme of perception and misperception. We can misperceive—think of the Apostles’ misunderstanding, but God still meets us where we are and takes us to where we need to be. Plus the passage refers to creation as pointing to God and then Paul and Barnabas pointing to God (despite being taken for Zeus and Hermes!)
This last reminds me of our oldest daughter who, when I would point to things on the roadside when we were driving along, would look at my hand instead of what I was pointing to.
Then there’s the old story (apparently originally a Buddhist tale!) of the blind men and the elephant—each feels only one part. Each thinks he understands what an elephant is like, but only has an incomplete picture. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant
It takes a lot of perspective to come close to seeing something clearly—think at least 66 books in the Bible (more if you include the Apocrypha), and then add in the question of how many authors there are of those texts.
There is the anecdote a man who showed a little girl a lizard caught in a bucket and she said that it was an alligator. Based on what she knew (children’s books showing that A is for Alligator, perhaps), that’s what she thought it was. She interpreted what she saw based on her experience. Don’t we all!
This illustration is included on the preaching and worship site, the 2nd link at
This site also provides some exegetical resources and also woodcuts illustrating the passage. (Beware lurking anti-Semitism in some of these resources.)
My sister is a missionary in Armenia—how the Gospel is understood among her students, who are actually mainly medical students from India studying in Armenia, is dependent on their various backgrounds. (Wikipedia notes that India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.) At least initially, they understand Jesus as one of their pantheon of gods…
A Korean friend of mine noted that Schussler-Fiorenza’s book Bread Not Stone made her think that, for her context, there needed to be a book Rice Not Bread. Such is the challenge of contextualization—a challenge raising the question of what is core to the gospel and what is its clothes; what is the meat and what is the husk. Which of the Gospel’s characteristics are just how it dresses in a particular culture rather than what it truly is? Early missionaries equated Christianity with becoming Westernized—what have we learned? What can other cultures and people who are, for us, “Other” teach us about how to understand what God is saying to us in Christ and Creation?
For hymns see: https://hymnary.org/texts?qu=Acts+14%3A8-18&media=text&page=0
(also listed on the preaching and worship site). One could also tap other creation/thanksgiving hymns if emphasizing that creation points to God. Other hymns could reflect on Easter, such as Thine is the Glory, Come Ye Faithful Raise the Strain, or on God meeting us where we are such as God of Compassion, in Mercy Befriend Us.
For a bulletin cover, one could try some version of “God isn’t finished with me yet” as referring to both the Greeks and to the Christians trying to talk to Greeks then and now
Call to Worship (from Acts 14:16-17, Good News translation)
[Used/adapted by permission of Barbara Hedges-Goettl]
One: We turn from away from the things that would claim our loyalty and gratitude.
Many: We turn instead to God and announce the Good News:
One: It is God who made heaven, earth, sea, and all that is in them.
Many: God has always given evidence of his existence
by the good things he does.
One: God gives rain from heaven and crops at the right times.
Many: God gives us food and fills our hearts with happiness.
ALL: And so we gather to praise and thank our God.
Opening Prayer (from the PCUSA Book of Common Worship-revised, 2018)
Living God, with joy we celebrate the presence of your risen Word.
Enliven our hearts your Holy Spirit so that we may live and proclaim the Good News
of eternal and abundant life. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Rite of Confession [Used/adapted by permission of Barbara Hedges-Goettl]
Call to Confession
As Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the Gospel, they sometimes met people who, wanted to honor them instead of the God who sent them and who praised the Creation instead of the Creator. Although we sometimes make these same mistakes, we can go to God for redirection and grace.
Prayer of Confession
O God, too often we go our own way.
We get confused about who does what.
We look for you in the all the wrong places.
We rely on things instead of the One who made them.
We rely on your messengers, instead of on you.
God, forgive us. Redirect us to your way.
Open our eyes to you as Creator of all,
that we may know, honor and proclaim you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
Stand up and walk in the power of Christ Jesus, who declares the Good News to us:
We are healed. We are forgiven. Thanks be to God!.
PRAYER OF GREAT THANKSGIVING/EUCHARISTIC PRAYER
[from PCUSA Book of Common Worship-Revised, 2018]
You are holy, O God of majesty,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,
whom you sent to save us.
He came with healing in his touch,
and was wounded for our sins.
He came with mercy in his voice,
And was mocked as one despised.
He came with peace in his heart,
and met with violence and death.
By our power he broke free from the prison of the tomb,
and at his command the gates of hell were opened.
The one who was dead now lives.
The one who humbled himself is raised to rule over all creation,
the Lamb upon the throne.
The One who ascended on high is with us always, as he promised.
Remembering all your [good]* and merciful acts,
we take this bread and this wine
from the gifts you have given us,
and celebrate with joy
the redemption won for us in Jesus Christ.
Accept hits our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy offering of creation,
that our lives may proclaim the One crucified and risen.
*Originally “might and merciful acts”
PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION (PCUSA Book of Common Worship Revised, 2018)
Gracious God, we give you thanks
that by the witness of your word
and the sharing of this meal
you [open]* our hearts and eyes
to the presence of Christ among us.
Now send us forth from this place
by the power of your Spirit
to tell this good news to the world:
The Lord has risen indeed! Amen.
*Originally “have opened”