Monday, May 20, 2019

A Turn in the Vision

Lectionary Text for Sunday: Acts 16:9-15 (NRSV)

As we continue in Acts, we see that the Easter Vision takes a turn in several ways in today's text.  

We end up in Philippi and we have an entire letter from Paul to this church so we can see how their relationship began in Acts and thrived.

Paul writes that this church supported him in the early days of his ministry:

You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account. I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.  
                                     Philippians 4:15-18 (NRSV)

It is fascinating that Paul initially goes to Philippi because of a vision that a man was requesting his help.  He encounters women at the river and we see the conversion of Lydia.  Since she owned her own business, it is not unlikely that Lydia was one of the supporters of Paul's missionary activities.  It is also possible that Euodia and Syntyche mentioned in Philippians 4:2 were two of the women that Paul met by the river that day.

Sometimes life throws us curve balls.
How we respond is up to us!
This turn shows that the church thrived with female leadership.  It was not likely Paul's expectation but he has learned that God is going to utilize surprising candidates for furthering the church.  He has taken a turn geographically in moving into Macedonia, he takes a turn culturally in witnessing to Gentiles and he takes a turn in leadership in placing women in positions of authority.

Just as women were discounted in Paul's day, who might we discount for leadership in the church today?  Who might God be using for furthering the church in the 21st century?

I hope that you'll join us in worship (either in person or online) as we continue to see how the early church speaks to us in the church today!

In Christ,


Photo by Babak Fakhamzadeh via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Prioritizing the Vision

Lectionary Reading: Acts 11:1-18 (NRSV)

"In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."

This sounds like something John Wesley would say but he didn't.

In his tract, "The Character of a Methodist" he does write, "As to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think."

And so we have to figure out what is essential.  We have to figure out what is the root of Christianity.  We have to know what we are about as people of faith.

Within today's reading in Acts, we see Peter re-evaluating what was essential.  What does it mean to be uncircumcised and yet a believer in Jesus Christ?  What does it mean to share in food that is considered unclean?

To the many of the people of that day, these were "essentials".  To suggest otherwise was to strike at the root of Christianity.

And yet, here we see Peter moving past them.  How would he decide to do this?

What was his rubric?

It was what he saw as the mission of the church.   The mission of the church was not to circumcise men (although this was laid out as a commandment by God).  The mission of the church was not to observe dietary laws (also laid out by God).  But the mission of the church was to share the gift of life in Jesus Christ with the world.  All other things are subservient to the mission.

As we discover our own mission as the church, we have to prioritize our actions.  How do the things we do help us to achieve this mission today?  If there are things we are doing that were not helping (such as insisting on circumcision for adult men), then we may need to stop doing them.  

Sometimes the church's difficulty is moving
people past hospitality and into discipleship.
Sometimes churches prioritize things that serve themselves.  They seek to be comfortable rather than truly engage in costly discipleship.  What kinds of things would we give up to offer life?

If a church puts out doughnuts, are they for members or visitors?  Do they represent our hospitality or our comfort?  What about coffee?  (uh, oh).  It is not wrong for me to partake of these things in my own church.  But it may be wrong if I do so at the expense of the mission.    

I will attempt to wade a little deeper into these waters on Sunday.  I invite you to join me and hopefully we won't pull each other under!

In Christ,


Photo by Deb Watson via  Used under the Creative Commons license.