Forming Faith Blog

The Church at Home: Upside Down

A toddler standing bent over with her head on the grass.

The reading assigned for Sunday, May 3, 2020, is actually two readings. First up we have the apostle Paul’s first visit to a city called Thessalonica (which is currently called Thessaloniki in the country of Greece). The second is from a later date when Paul is writing to the church he helped found there.

What Happened

If you have younger kids, I might suggest sticking with the Acts story (see my note on reading the Letters with kids below). In the Acts story, Paul and his silent partner Silas are visiting Thessalonica and doing their normal missionary work. Paul (a Jew) does what he usually does and finds the local synagogue. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, so it makes sense to start there. Sometimes this goes well, sometimes it doesn’t, and usually results in some sort of trouble. Here a group that doesn’t like Paul and Silas gathers a mob and tries to run them out of town. When the mob can’t find the two, they grab their host, Jason, and some others and bring them in front of the local leaders.

The mob accuses Paul and Silas:

“These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also…They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor saying there is another king named Jesus.”

Acts 17:6-7
Upside Down?

But these missionaries are telling people about Jesus, not starting an armed rebellion! What’s the fuss about? I’m not quite sure why those who disagree with Paul are so angry as to create an incident like this, but I do know that what they say is true, though possibly not how they understand it.

The good news of Jesus that the missionaries are spreading is not something that sits quietly in our hearts and makes us good people. It is indeed revolutionary. The message is that Jesus is king. And not just A king, but THE king. He is above any earthly leader, including the Roman emperor. Jesus’ kingdom isn’t about a piece of land, but about bringing God’s way into our world. You know, the whole “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” bit.

God’s Way

And God’s way is so different than our ways, you might even say that it’s upside down. We can see this in Jesus. Our world goes to violence as the answer, while Jesus showed us self-sacrifice. We look at others for what they can do for us, while Jesus instructs us to be the servant of everyone. We are afraid of people different than us, while Jesus proclaims unconditional love (even for those people). Jesus rejects our power structures and calls us to do the same, to create radical communities based on radical love. Communities of peace in a world of violence. Communities of joy in a world of fear.

What to Do?

In a time of pandemic and stay-at-home orders, community is harder to come by. But that means that we need to work harder on it. How can you practice being in an upside-down kingdom wherever you are? Perhaps in your family? Perhaps with your friends, family, neighbors, and church community over video chats, texts, emails, or even (gasp) letters?

Today, like any other day, we have the opportunity to show the world what an upside-down kingdom looks like. What will you do?

Note on reading the Letters with kids (or by yourself)

Some parts of Scripture can be hard to understand as adults. They’re much more confusing for kids. Many of the readings for the Narrative Lectionary are narratives (stories) on purpose. They are much easier for us to track, even if we might struggle to see the “deeper meaning” behind them. However, the Letters (some call them Epistles) at the end of the New Testament are not stories. They are more abstract. Peter agrees:

So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand.

2 Peter 3:15-16

The Letters are an important part of Scripture, so here are a few thoughts on using our daily Bible readings on the Letters with kids.

  1. Get into it. Spend personal time reading, reflecting, and studying the passage before encountering it with your kids. Don’t worry about getting it “right” and be sure to admit to your kids when you don’t understand something. Reading the Bible is a messy business for all of us.
  2. Figure out what you can. Know that the writer (often the apostle Paul) was writing to a specific church in a specific situation. Like much of Scripture, the writer is either trying to instruct people on what to do (or often not do) or give them good news to comfort them. Or both. You can’t go wrong with the basics of faith: Jesus loves you. Go love God and others.
  3. Skip them. Our daily Bible readings follow the Book of Acts up until chapter three, then skip to chapter 16, and finally stop at chapter 18. This leaves chapters 4 to 15 and 19 to 28 unread, plenty to fill in for the skipped readings. If nothing else, make it a goal to read through Acts during the summer. It’s a fun book with a stoning, escape by night, prison breaks, a snake bite, and a shipwreck. What’s not to like?

May the freedom, peace, and joy of Christ fill your hearts and minds.

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

When you download the free Sharing God’s Story @ Home devotional insert, linked below, you will have a resource to guide daily devotional time. Using this resource and your own creativity, design devotions for yourself and your family or friends. I will be providing this resource for free on a weekly basis, so check back at this blog each week! I hope this will be helpful for you in the days ahead.

Daily Bible Readings online (Here you can subscribe to our daily Bible readings calendar so that you can see them on your electronic calendar.)

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