1 When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Christ[a] had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,[b]” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.This was the text from which Lisa preached today, reading the NRSV translation with the word "ruffians". That made me giggle. In fact, I scribbled the words "rapscallions" and "scalawags" on my bulletin. It got me thinking, though. When was the last time you heard of a preacher pissing off so many people they actually went and cooked up a riot to stop the preacher from preaching? When was the last time you heard any part of the Christian Church, at least in North America, considered a seditious threat to the very fabric of society?
5 But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.[c] 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown in
. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And
Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with
them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary
for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This is
the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you." Some of them
were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout
Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews became
jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they
formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching
for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked
Jason's house. When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and
some believers before the city authorities, shouting, "These people who
have been turning the world upside down have come here also, and
Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to
the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named
Jesus." The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard
this, and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let
them go. (NRSV)
Wouldn't it be cool if this actually happened? Maybe not every Sunday, but once in a while might be nice.
How far have we as Christians fallen that we are far more concerned about stuff like attendance and cultural relevance and far less concerned about preaching the gospel in a way that makes the powers-that-be so furious they are willing to create a riot, then blame us? Can't step on any toes, or offend anyone sitting in the pews or chairs, now, can we!
Except, we should. We should be in the business of stirring up trouble. We should be in the habit of ticking off the right people. Every once in a while it would be nice if a bishop or some other denominational leader got on TV and insisted that a congregation somewhere was nothing but trouble, perhaps even a danger to the very fabric of America as we know it.
Just once, before I'm too old to appreciate it, I want someone, somewhere, to refer to some congregation of some mainline denomination to be called "a gang of ruffians". Then, I'll know the Gospel has been preached.