by Bishop Bill Gohl
And when they arrived, they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples. – Acts 14:27-28
This was my chapel meditation for the week after I returned from the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston. +bg
The scriptures spoke to the now and not yet, the not realized and still hopeful faith each of the speakers brought to the stage. All that threatens to divide us coupled with the much more that unites us is embraced in the mighty Word of God, incarnated in Jesus Christ, alive in the vulnerability and humility of those who stood before 30,000 people and gave witness to our humanity coming to terms with itself in Christian community. The testimony, much like the scriptures in which it was grounded, left nothing hidden, nothing covered over, nothing was too embarrassing to share. The hurts, the uncertainties, the arguments, the prejudices, the -isms and -phobias that do injury to the body of Christ were laid bare for all of us to scrutinize, reflect and repent – just as the scriptures speak of the church from the very beginning.
And so is the celebration: And when they arrived they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.
They remained no little time with the disciples. That was the gift of Houston, the time we were given by God and the support of congregations and ministries across this church, to give to each other. To listen and hear the other. To recognize God in situations and circumstances both familiar and foreign to our hearts and minds and experiences.
Sometimes we “do” community extremely well, and sometimes we fail very badly. It’s not a romantic notion or nostalgic experience, these Gatherings; it’s a call to gather the community for a time such as this and then scatter the body of Christ to be the Church alive in the world.
Community is God’s mandate and God’s gift, and such a mandate and gift were cultivated in the joys and struggles, the sorrows and celebrations of the people of God gathered in Houston last week, reminded that the Call of God, the Love of God and the Hope of God in Jesus Christ change everything.
Let’s listen as pilgrims, young and not-so-young, return to tell their stories. Let’s encourage testimony and witness. Let’s believe our young people in the stories they share. Let those who have ears listen, and let the church be challenged to act, out of love for God and neighbor, and for Jesus’ sake.
Authorities came there from Antioch and Iconium; and having persuaded the people, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city; and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed. Then they passed through Pisidia, and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia; and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled. And when they arrived, they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples. – Acts 14:19-28