Location, location, location. No, this is not a promotion of the real estate mantra. Rather it is a recognition of the extremely itinerant nature of Paul’s life. Once Paul had encountered the living Jesus and become a devoted follower, he lived the rest of his life seemingly rootless and compelled to travel. A read through Acts sketches the picture of how many years he traveled and how many cities and people he visited – all in the name of Jesus.
We have in today’s reading only a thin cross-section of Paul’s locations, locations, locations. He had been in Athens proclaiming the good news of the living Jesus in the synagogue, marketplace, and political forum. He spoke and debated with any who would listen and talk. Then Paul went to Corinth. (Both Athens and Corinth were in the Roman province of Achaia – southern Greece. Macedonia was northern Greece.) In Corinth, Paul continued to share Jesus in the synagogue and anywhere he could, meeting with many people. Some responded joyfully and became followers of Jesus. Others – notably, a contingent of Jewish people – opposed and hectored him, even accusing him of troublemaking before the highest Roman official in Achaia. Paul, trusting in God’s care, simply continued in faithfulness to Jesus.
As suggested above, it would be easy to perceive Paul – traveling from location to location to location – as rootless. But he was not rootless. He simply did not root himself in any thing or person but Jesus. Paul may seem rootless to us because we put so much of our time, energy, priorities, and efforts in trying to root ourselves in so many things other than Jesus. These include possessions, power, accomplishments, prestige, appearance, family, ethnicity, country, and the like. Paul could have done that. He had a profession, as we see in this passage. He was well educated, intelligent, passionate, and visionary. He was even something of a “celebrity” in the burgeoning Jesus-movement. But he grounded himself in Jesus.
Itinerancy is not a requirement for rooting ourselves rightly. But we do have to refuse those things, many of which may be good as far as they go, that would root us in something other than Jesus. To do so we must join with Paul as he affirms in Philippians 3:7-9: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him….” For, as Paul truly knew and we can also know, Jesus is the only true home for our hearts, minds, and bodies – for our very selves.