TRA Wordtalks

"Sunday, 22nd February, 1998 - Support Older Believers

1/98 22/2/98 Scripture: Acts 23:12-25

"GENERATION X" is the tag applied to young people born in the 1960's. They are the young adults who are in their twenties and thirties who have become prime targets of the advertising industry. They were so named by Karen Ritchie, an advertising executive at a conference in 1992. Since then they have become the most analysed generation in history. There have been significant books written to help the church come to grips with how to reach Generation X.

They are regarded as being interested only in their own chosen career, read little in newspapers but much in a few magazines. They are not motivated by politics, nor switched on by contemporary rock music. They are interested in finding the meaning behind relationships, about requiring the right dress and body shape. They often eat in the lounge room, have their evening meal delivered in a cardboard box, go to the service station to buy food and get their money from an ATM. They go to movies and drink coffee sitting outside the restaurant. They are not into the Church believing the church is irrelevant. They are into spirituality, especially New Age type mysticism. Jesus is in, but the Church is out.

Actually, you members of Generation X listening to me now, should be re-labelled as "Generation M3" because you are the people who are going to spend most of your life in the third millennium! Think of it: if you are going to spend most of your life, God willing, in the third millennium, please stand up! We want to salute you. This sermon is especially for you.

Those of us who belong to Generation M2, who have already lived most of our lives, live differently.

We eat in the kitchen or dining room using knives and folks, thinking eating with fingers rather primitive. We go to the service station to buy petrol for the car, and get money once a week from a bank. We cook meals, and never drink cappuccinos on the footpath. Some of us people of the 20th century are not coping with these changes very well. We have a Luddite mentality, wanting to break the machinery of change, or else we just grumble and withdraw like bears with a sore head.

If you have already lived over half your life expectancy note these Generation M3 people. They are going to support you older believers if you get into the third millennium! They are the ones whose taxes will pay what pensions and government superannuation will be left for you. They will pay for your health care and social security. But more, they will be the members who will be running the church you have loved. They have different ideas about how things will be done and a different value system. But they have a real commitment to Jesus Christ.

In research over the last few years, Uniting Church youth worker Fuzz Kitto and his team have surveyed about ten thousand young people between twelve and eighteen years of age. You would think that the Generation M3 have everything before them and life is full of excitement and expectancy. One of the questions asked is about concerns they and other young people have. Around 38% of young people indicate their top ranking concern is boredom: there is nothing to do. Why do we have so many Australian young people suffering from boredom? They claim there is nothing to do, yet never have a generation had so much with which to amuse themselves.

Every shopping complex has its Intencity or Timezone or virtual reality electronic machinery, Pizza Hut, McDonalds and theatre complex screening Generation M3 films. We do young people a disservice when we sponsor bigger and better activities. The root cause of boredom is not a lack of activities, it is a lack of meaning. The psychiatrist Victor Frankl wrote that a society which has lost its meaning is marked by rampant libido and an insatiable urge to own things. That is young adult culture in Australia. Generation M3 has to find its own sense of meaning. Generation M3 is in a world that says, "You are what you do, what you earn, what you own and how you look". Personal significance is increasingly hard to discover in things.

The church is one of the few places left where significance can be affirmed and experienced. It is the only place where young people can find an understanding of why they are significant. It is the only place where people can grow in faith. Yet even Christian youth bypass the church doors.

It is rather surprising to find a Generation M3 style young adult in The Acts of the Apostles. But this young man belonged to the first generation of the believers after the resurrection of the Christ. He belonged to Generation M1. He spent his life entirely in the first century of the first millennium. In an exciting adventure he supported an older believer. It was his uncle, Paul the Apostle. The story begins with a bunch of hot blooded, misguided paranoid zealots.

1. MAD ZEALOTS

Paul had been pursued by a group determined to stamp out Christianity. They had crucified Jesus, stoned Stephen, martyred James, imprisoned Peter and John, and had stoned Paul.

They intended to kill him. But the Roman Tribune in charge of keeping the peace in Jerusalem had Paul arrested and imprisoned to protect his life. But the paranoid zealots were determined to kill him. "The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, `We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.'"

There is paranoia among these forty men who took an oath to rid themselves of Paul. But Christian leaders have often suffered from the paranoia of those who want to get rid of them and destroy the effectiveness of their work. In every era, including ours and in this city, there are twisted people who spend their lives in seeking the destruction of Christians leaders. Sometimes this even leads to the death of Christians. In Jerusalem, the Roman guards were tough and disciplined. They knew how to keep the peace.

2. BRAVE YOUTH

Into the picture steps this young man of Generation M1. Surprisingly we discover that he is a relative of the Apostle Paul, the son of Paul's sister. This is tantalising. Who was Paul's sister? Who was his nephew? Paul tells us he suffered the loss of family when he became a Christian (Phil 3:8) but he apparently kept contact with his sister. Had her son come to Jerusalem for advanced education as Uncle Paul had done twenty years earlier?

Was the young man playing the part of a spy? Were the plotters part of Paul's own family and he overheard the plot? "But when the son of Paul's sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul. Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, `Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.' So he took him to the commander. The centurion said, `Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.' The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, `What is it you want to tell me?' He said: `The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. Don't give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.' The commander dismissed the young man and cautioned him, `Don't tell anyone that you have reported this to me.'"

As a Roman citizen, Paul was kept in custody but was allowed visitors. This young man courageously supported the older believer by seeking to save his life. This brave stand would help him grow in faith.

3. CHANGED PLANS

His action caused the Roman Tribune to act fast. "Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, `Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.' He wrote a letter as follows....."

Luke copies the letter of the Tribune to the Governor in Caesarea. It does not profess to be word for word, but an outline. One authentic note is found in the Tribune over exaggerates his role in rescuing Paul. In fact, he did not find out Paul was a Roman citizen until much later, and he does not mention that he ordered Paul whipped. "`Claudius Lysias, To His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment.
When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.' `So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris.'" Tribune Claudias Lysias treated the young man's report seriously. He warned the young man to keep the information to himself. Paul was not safe. He had to be taken to Caesarea on the coast one hundred kilometres to the West. There was a strongly armed fortress there. The Tribune got a guard of infantry, cavalry and lightly armed troops. Part of the group including Paul rode horses. The convey set off at 9pm under cover of darkness and were forced marched downhill sixty kilometres along the Roman road to the safety of Antipatris. By dawn, Paul was safe. After rest, the foot soldiers turned back and the mounted cavalry went on to Caesarea. Incidentally, in World War 1, the Australian 1st AIF Cavalry who had success in Palestine, made this same journey!

4. RESCUED IN TIME

"The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, he said, `I will hear your case when your accusers get here.' Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod's palace."

Governor Felix read the letter, in case he should get external advice. He decided to hear Paul's case himself and ordered Paul be kept in the prison at fort Caesarea. The remains are there today. Antonius Felix was a man of lowly origins, but he and his brother advanced in the Roman public service. Felix served in a subordinate post in Samaria from 48-52AD and was appointed Procurator of Judea 52-59AD. This was a time of many rebellions against the Romans which he put down with great severity. The Jews hated him. The Roman historian Tacitus described him as "exercising the powers of a king with the mind of a slave." He married three significant women, the first being the grand-daughter of Anthony and Cleopatra, and the third the daughter of old King Herod. He had done well for himself, but he is remembered not for his wealth or position or achievements, but because before him stood a prisoner for Jesus Christ's sake.

Paul had been rescued by a young man of Generation M1. Because he showed commitment to the Christian cause, that young man grew in faith also. To the members of Generation M3, we say, here is one way in which you can grow in faith: be brave, concerned and committed, and do something to help older believers, and you will help your faith grow.

Gordon Moyes

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