“He [Paul] 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” (Acts 28:30-31)
I know many of you are enjoying a few last pages of summer reading. Earlier this summer, Bishop Bill Gafkjen, who serves the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, introduced me to Louise Penny. Louise is a Canadian author, who writes mysteries that take place in a small town in Quebec. As soon as I read that Chief Inspector Armande Gamache drinks his coffee from Tim Horton’s “double-double”, I was hooked.
What I like about mysteries is that they are usually neatly “tied up” at the end. There is some resolution, as we finally find out who did it, how they went about it, and why the deed was done. I have also read mysteries that were unresolved at the end and had to wait for the sequel to be published. I’m not a big fan of ambiguous endings.\
St. Luke could learn a thing or two from Louise Penny, especially when it comes to neat and tidy endings. Many of us have been slowly reading through the Book of Acts this summer, and Acts unfolds with great purpose and vision. Jesus tells the disciples, “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And that’s precisely how the story unfolds. The spread of the “Jesus movement” is both geographic (from Jerusalem to Rome) and ethnic (from Jewish to Gentile believers). But then it ends with Paul living in Rome, “on his own dime”, and welcoming all who stop in to see him.
I like tidy endings. I prefer stories that are neatly summed up in the end. So, what do we do with the unfinished ending in the Book of Acts? What might St. Luke be trying to do here?
Perhaps the “unfinished ending” in the Book of Acts is deliberate. Perhaps Luke is encouraging the reader to write (and live) their own ending. Perhaps Luke is calling us to partner with God as the Jesus movement continues to move in our time and place. With his unresolved ending, Luke may be asking, “Here’s what Peter, John, Barnabas, Priscilla, and Paul did with the message of the Gospel. So now, what are you going to do?” How might you prayerfully answer that question?