Acts 28:16-20, 30-31

When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.

Three days later he called together the local leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, yet I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. When they had examined me, the Romans wanted to release me, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to the emperor—even though I had no charge to bring against my nation. For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is for the sake of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Like Paul writing from Rome during house arrest, many of us have been in our own home quarantine for an extended time now…that is, those of us privileged enough to have a home and to be able to work from home. We know from scripture that Paul spent two years under house arrest in Rome and that he “…welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

Five years ago, I visited an active excavation site in Rome that many biblical archaeologists believe may have been where Paul lived during those two years when he was imprisoned. Those early first century Roman domestic apartments are about 200 feet below the Anglican Centre in Rome. The experience of being in that space brought me closer to Paul and caused me to reflect more deeply on how he spent his time over those two years while under arrest. It also caused me to reflect on how others in more contemporary times spent their time while imprisoned – like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the Birmingham jail and Nelson Mandela on Robben Island.

There is something about a time of involuntary confinement that can bring great clarity about the things that truly matter. Please know that I am not equating our temporary self-quarantine with imprisonment. They are clearly not comparable. Enduring truths, however, can come into greater focus when we are forced to slow down and pay attention. I believe there are some critically important truths that we have experienced during this pandemic.

We cannot and we must not unsee the inequities and injustices we have seen. We cannot and we must not forget about those on the frontlines who have sacrificed so much for us. We cannot and we must not come out on the other side of this pandemic unchanged. Jesus showed us how to love one another. That is still our work to do – now and in the years to come. God bless you and keep you.

In faith, love and hope,

All my hope on God is founded; he doth still my trust renew,
me through change and chance he guideth, only good and only true.
God unknown, he alone calls my heart to be his own.

(The Hymnal 1982, #665, Robert Seymour Bridges)