But.

  • 11 May 2022
  • Stuart Robinson

Acts 12

May 15th, 2022.

It was a long reading from Acts and that generally means you are ‘owed’ a shorter homily 😊 – and that will be the case, though I do want to read the end section of Acts 12 verses 20-24:

Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. He has been quarrelling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply. On the appointed day, Herod wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, ‘this is the voice of a god, not a man’. Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of the Lord continued to spread and flourish.

Did you note that remarkable sentence at the end – Acts 12:24, beginning with the word, ‘but’?

But the word of God continued to spread; to advance and gain adherents, to flourish.

We should take great heart in that, dear friends.

But the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents.

The context, you see, is sobering. 

King Herod was violently opposing the gospel, and he had James, the brother of John, put to death by the sword. 

Maniacal and flush with success, Herod then arrested Peter and had him locked in prison. 

Four squads of soldiers were unable to prevent Peter’s release by an angel of the Lord: a miraculous intervention.

Incensed, Herod executed the guards for what appeared to be gross incompetence and dereliction of duty.

Now then, why James died such an appalling death, and Peter survived we do not know. 

And though Herod was himself then struck down by an angel of God for his blasphemy and defiance of the word of God – it was not until after he has caused great pain and misery among the people of God, did the Lord ‘remove him’, as it were.

God’s purposes are oftentimes a mystery, sisters, and brothers. 

That said, in the midst of great difficulty, and adversity, and uncertainty, we read these words:

But the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents [continued to spread and to flourish]’. Acts 12:24.

There is that wonderful conjunction again – ‘But’.

But the word of God’ – or the message of the gospeladvanced, and people came to faith.

Here is the lesson: 

Nothing – no thing, no person, can thwart the purposes and plans of God.

Proverbs 21:30 – makes that point so clearly, “there is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.’

Do you believe that?

Not global pandemics, not wars in eastern Europe, not threats of nuclear reprisals, not our struggles with infirmity, cancer, and betrayal, can thwart the plans and purposes of God.

Why not?

Because through his people, saints like James, and John, and Peter, and Mary, and Mark, and Rhoda – and you, the word of God will continue to spread and flourish.

Indeed, that is South Head Anglican Parish’s Mission – to be agents and conduits of the spreading and flourishing word of God…whatever the context, whatever the challenge: 

Thus, our stated Mission; we exist to:

  • Know and to enjoy a friendship with Jesus
  • Grow in our worship and service of God our Father, and in our love for each other
  • Go into all the world witnessing to Jesus’ mercy and grace.

Know, Grow, Go – such that the word of God might continue to advance and gain adherents.

May we pray?

Our great God and heavenly Father, we acknowledge that there is great foment and uncertainty in our world – and all too often in our own hearts. 

We also acknowledge that you are sovereign and powerful, and that you are lovingly working out your plans and purposes in and through us.

Please, Lord God, may we be conduits of light and blessing to our neighbours, and friends, and families; beacons of hope in an age of fear and mistrust. 

May your Word continue to spread and flourish through our life and witness.

In the name of Christ.

Amen.

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