Let’s begin with a prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
We come to you with love and respect; asking for forgiveness, thanking you for grace. Please be with us in these coming weeks as you have in the past. Help us to glorify you and move hearts to remember your son. And thank you for blessing this attempt we’ve made at reaching out to you and one another through reading scripture together. Thank you for the power you revealed in the story of the early disciples. Please help us to imitate their faith and turn the world upside down for you.
In Jesus name we pray,
Well gang, here we are. 28 days later and we’re about to close this attempt. If you stuck with me for the whole ride, thanks. It’s been a pleasure. If you’re reading this at some later time, only time will tell how many of the goals we set during these past 4 weeks will come to pass. But for now, if reading this book together can be compared to climbing a mountain, we’ve reached the summit and are about to take our pictures on the peak.
Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.
11 After three months we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. 16 When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.
Nero is Caesar at this time. Because of the various and ample sources of history regarding the Caesars, and Nero in particular, we do know a few more details to this story.
Julius the Centurion is now finished with his mission. What a movie his story would make! An odyssey, beginning in Caesarea. It starts with him drinking with his buddies the night before he is to set sail from Judea to go home to Rome and those who have to stay behind think he’s got the cherry job. But what should have been a one month routine ‘package delivery’ to Rome is going to take almost half a year of his life.
When he finally gets to Rome, he hands Paul off to Sextus Afranius Burrus, the prefect of the Praetorian Guard and an advisor to the Roman emperor Nero at this particular time. This story is amazing, people; look it up. Luke’s validity is proven in the correlation of meteorology, historical facts, nautical terminology, and even the mundane details I jokingly ridicule; everything adds up to a narrative that is not only for us of faith, holy scripture; it’s the most exciting story ever. Well almost. But if Jesus has the most amazing story, a tough act to follow; what could possibly come next to inspire us? The book of Acts, that’s what. The second act in the passion of Christ: the passion of his people.
17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”
21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”
23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26 “‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
I wonder if it was the Lord’s intent that we’d end this book with Paul still alive; Peter still in Jerusalem; Luke still able to write…? As a reminder that all of the stories are really about Jesus? To leave the brothers alive at the top of their game, still preaching. Still spreading the gospel. It’s appointed for us all to die, and after that the judgement. So, of course, the brothers had to die. So sad it was horrific, but none the less, this all happened 2000 years ago. All those folks died, and so will we. The question always is how will we live? What will we do? What will we attempt to do?
I remember the very first day I met Bob. He was visiting Boston to study the bible. His girlfriend had become a disciple and he was seeking the truth for himself. We met at a grinder shop near Harvard Square, I think. We talked a little about opera, a little about love, and a lot about the Lord. He became a disciple in time and was, of course, the first man to play Simon Peter in our first production of “Upside Down”. Trust me, you want to see this… https://vimeo.com/171221923
You can still see Bob and Teresa as Peter and Abbie. They began what I hope is a tradition that will continue as long as this prison set three planets from the sun continues it’s orbit towards eternity.
Alright, c’mon Stevie, it’s time to wrap this up for now. But wait. Please indulge me. I wrote this sometime ago as part of the monologue included in a show I call “Nicodemus”. I think you’ve had enough background with Peter and Abbie and roosters to know what it’s about. In time I hope to finish the illustrations to make this into a gift for children and their parents to share.
Aposiopesis, a fable after the…
he woke up every morning the same sound ringing in his ears
the rooster shrilly crowing made his eyes fill up with tears
as soon as he awakened the first thought of every day…
…was that the memory of the thing he’d done would never go away.
his shame concealed in anger, he’d growl and stomp and roar,
“stop that infernal racket!!!” and already at the door,
he swiftly caught the rooster, his hand tight around its neck, and he silenced him forever
without stopping to reflect.
but roosters were aplenty so he’d then hear his wife say,
“go buy us another rooster…after you take time to pray!”
so he’d fetch another rooster at the rooster store in town,
but in the morning, sure as sunrise, he’d put another rooster down
(and since there’s children in the audience, let me simply say: they ate chicken soup each evening and
bought a new rooster every day.)
rooster after rooster left the store eager to crow, until finally a rooster thought, “where do these roosters go?”
the man came in, the rooster knew, as they looked eye to eye, that now he was the rooster that the man was
going to buy
he left inspired to let the man hear his shrilly crow, but all the while his only thought was, “where did the other roosters go???”
all that night he couldn’t sleep, this thought racing through his mind
and looking, looking round his perch for clues he’d never find
until with drowsy eyes and beak he stifled a tired yawn
he was a rooster and a rooster knows the coming of the dawn
the sun’s first light cracked through the night and soon would start the day
so the rooster cleared his mighty throat…standing up…there in the hay
spreading out his wings ready for what all roosters know
he opened wide his beak and let out a shrilly, perfect…
…he almost shouted, but he held back any sound
“That’s it! that’s why i do not see any other roosters around!
it’s the crowing, i just know it, and if i do what roosters do
i don’t exactly know what happens but it will happen to me too!”
so the rooster stood there silent as the sun rose in the sky
and the man slept,
and slept… until…as time rolled by
his wife shook him by the shoulder, “are you going to sleep all day?”
and the man awoke a bit confused, something’s much different….now…today
“I overslept.” he said, and she, swallowing a smile,
said, “you needed rest, i’ve known you needed rest for quite a while.”
“I didn’t hear the rooster crow,” he finally thought to say
“i’m not sure i did either,” said his wife, kneeling down to pray
“will you do the honors?” she said, already on the floor
“why, yes, of course,” he said and prayed…like he’d never prayed before
the day went by the night it came the man he slumbered so
but again he slept,
and slept…the rooster did not crow.
day by day and night by night the days, then weeks, did go
each day the man awoke to say, “the rooster didn’t crow.”
by and by the man, he knew, was good his anger faded
yet part of that sad memory he never would have traded
for though the bad thing that he did had shamed him through and through
he felt so good when the one he wronged had said, “I forgive you.”
so now he marched out to the rooster and as humbly as he could
he pleaded with the rooster to…”crow, and crow real good!
I promise i won’t hurt you if you just do what roosters do
for i’ve changed my heart and changed my ways and learned a lesson, too:
sometimes it isn’t bad, when something makes you sad
and nothing really changes if you let it make you mad
so from now on when the memory of what i did makes my heart grim
i’ll remember he forgave me and instead just think of Him.”
well, somehow the rooster listened and somehow the rooster knew
that it was alright for him to go ahead and do what roosters do
so the man woke up every morning, that sound ringing in his ears
the rooster shrilly crowing….his eyes filling up with tears.
I married above myself, and therein lies every good thing that has happened to me. And there’s no one I’d rather have pray for me… for anyone or anything… then the woman who’s been my best friend for 4 decades.
We’ve come to the end of our 28 days. We attempted. We completed. But we’re far from finished. We are attempting to show “Upside Down” to a billion souls. Our brethren two thousand years ago did it. Over time, yeah; but without planes, trains, automobiles… internet. We can do it. We at least must attempt it. So as we do, Lisa, please, lead us in prayer:
Dear God, our Creator,
Thank you for the love that you have shown us.
You are the one who is able to do measurably more than all we can ask or imagine and we can imagine so much! We beg you to do more! To help this endeavor to bring glory to Jesus. In the spirit of the persistent widow and the one that came with boldness we ask you today to hear our prayers, that’s the way Jesus taught us to pray, God. We have a desire, we have a dream for this production to help people fall in love with Jesus, for people to see him like they’ve never seen him before, to see him through the eyes of the people that walked the earth and taught about him soon after he ascended. Father please, I pray that you would be with every person that’s involved in anyway, there’s so many details God, but you know each one and I pray that just as you know the hairs on our heads that you would move powerfully to make this the best it can be. Out of your glorious riches I pray that you would strengthen each of us in our inner beings with your spirit so that Jesus would dwell in our hearts through faith…that we could dwell in your heart so that Jesus would dwell in our hearts. I pray that you put your Word in our minds and write it on our hearts in such a way to make us whole and real. I pray that with all your heart and all your soul, father that you would help us to rely on you, to put our faith in you, to walk with you. I pray that you would carry us in your arms close to your heart in the folds of your garments so that we could feel your presence, feel your strength. I pray that you engrave us in the palms of your hands in such a way that we can know you are there every moment, you are in every conversation and every challenge and in every difficulty….you’ll help us to be vulnerable in ways that will communicate your love and dependence on you. I pray that you would be with those of us that are at home wishing we could be there, at home praying and hoping to see this world turned upside down. I pray for strength and humility in all our relationships. I pray, father that every person involved in this endeavor would be blessed with a deeper love for Jesus or to fall in love with him for the very first time. Thank you so much for people that are using their amazing talents and creativity that truly shout of being created in your image and for those that have bought tickets or tickets have been bought for by hopeful friends and family members that this would introduce them to the real Jesus. God we need you, we love you, we pray to know your love that is more than we can imagine. I pray that we can know that love that surpasses knowledge that it would in fact surpass everything we’ve ever known, every kind of love we’ve ever hoped for. And thank you that we get to be enriched and inspired by the talents you so generously give. I pray God, for the future, that it would truly make a difference, you would allow us, would honor us in such a way that we could be a part of turning this world upside down and, God, you know how desperately this world needs to be turned upside down…in Jesus name and because of him,
steve and lisa, june 28, 2016