Daily Reflection
April 17th, 2008

Barbara Dilly

Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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Paul offered a word of exhortation at the synagogue at Antioch after the readings of the law and the prophets. As I imagine what the setting might have been like, it seems to me that Paul was probably the guest preacher who gave a short sermon. He was asked to present it in the form of an exhortation, a style of speaking that must have been a tradition for the church at Antioch. An exhortation is an urgent appeal in language that is intended to incite or encourage. It can also give warning or advice. I tend to like sermons of this type that strongly urge me to listen to some important advice. But not all pastors or priests use this sermon style. Some, however, like Paul, are gifted at exhortation. In fact, many of the rest of us also have the spiritual gift of exhortation. If we have worked with children or youth, we have probably used it, but we don’t often use it with our peers. But we should. The gift of exhortation allows God to speak through us to call others to important action.

In the passage from Acts that we read today, Paul exhorts the people of Antioch to make the connections between the promises God made to his people in the Old Testament and the Gospel message of Christ. In the Gospel of John, Jesus exhorts his disciples to recognize the fulfillment of the Scriptures through him. He then encourages them to receive the Holy Spirit on behalf of God the Father through him. Where are we in all of this? We are like the people in Antioch and the disciples. We are exhorted to acts of repentance and faith. We are also exhorted to let God and the Holy Spirit work through us with humility, just as Jesus demonstrated humility when he washed his disciple’s feet. Today I pray for those among us who have the gift of exhortation, to let God work through them that they may encourage and give warnings or advice to others. I pray that we are all exhorted to greater faith, repentance, and mission.

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