I’m reading through some of the missionary journeys of Paul at the moment- you can find them in the second half of Acts, particularly Acts 16 onwards. And its making me think about the way that we travel. Often we go somewhere with a particular focus- very often the destination is specific, and the purpose is something to achieve when we get there… commuting to work and back would be an example of this, moving house, going to a party etc. And our heads are focussed on getting there, and doing whatever we’re meant to be doing. Christian life is no exception to this- sometimes I’ve been preoccupied with getting to a place to speak about God’s love or to help with an event that hopes to reach out to those beyond the current community of the church, and on the way I pass people I know who’re needing to hear that message, but I’m in a rush and can’t stop… We can be too busy preparing for Christian stuff, and forget to actually get stuck in if the appropriate situation arises.
Paul, in these passages, has a vague plan- he’s going around from place to place, and in each city he starts by speaking in the synagogue. Where that doesn’t work, he adapts to what is availabile- in Athens he ends up in the Areopagus (which is one of those privileged/scary places where you would either be well received or could end up dead), in Ephesus he hires a lecture hall, he is various arrested, causes riots, is beaten… but Paul doesn’t have an absolute process that he sticks to. He’s not so busy on the destination (sharing the Gospel in the cities of the Roman Empire) that he can’t stop awhile and appreciate the unique value of the place where he is and the people he meets (in Ephesus he stays for 2yrs with the group of disciples he met there- folk who understood the need for repentance but had no idea about forgiveness or healing…).
In much of our lives we could do with slowing down, but we could also do with understanding the deeper purpose- it doesn’t matter if it takes a while to reach our destination if we’re journeying, where the places we pass through, the people we meet with and the things we share are all a part of what we’re doing… and if we journey with people for only a short time, the hope we have is that we will enrich their lives and allow them to enrich ours in the short moments that we have together.
When we reach the end of our church services I often conclude by saying ‘Go into the world to love and serve the Lord’… maybe that needs to read ‘Journey in the world loving and serving the Lord’? Or maybe I’m just a big hippy-freak…