local & dispersed
Mostly, during this global pandemic, I’ve walked. My world became smaller, limited to the same six people outside my house. Meanwhile, the virus connected us around the world. Through Zoom and droplets spread from person to person. News and social media.
Church reflected this paradox. I listened alone on headphones. With just family in the dining room. No more gathering, singing, talking, laughing and crying together in the sanctuary. But NCFers across the country contributed to our online services. We’ve been more connected to extended family on Sunday mornings than ever.
As they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul to the work I have called them to undertake.” After they fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on these two and sent them off. Acts 13:2-3 (CEB)
Cultivating relationships between the local community and the wider world is a calling. Synagogue membership was defined by a Sabbath day’s walk. Most people didn’t travel much. Their lives and worship were embedded in their community. With their neighbors. But Paul was commissioned to spread the word. To build relationships beyond.
We are members of local congregations and of the Church at large. Rooted in our communities and connected to family and strangers around the world. How do we understand those responsibilities and opportunities? As individuals, as families, as church fellowships.
Are we excited by this challenge, or overwhelmed? Do we want to flee our small bubbles or retreat from the world? Are we eager to gather again as a local congregation or do we prefer to Zoom from our living room?
I long for some insight from Barnabas. He must have been a great traveling companion. Together he and Paul experienced hero worship and stoning and got up again. On to the next town to preach the good news. Then back around to appoint elders and strengthen the disciples to remain firm in the faith.
After Paul and Barnabas traveled through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. They proclaimed the word in Perga, then went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been entrusted by God’s grace to the work they had now completed. Acts 14:24-26 (CEB)
What is the work with which we have been entrusted? Perhaps as leaders in the local church. Perhaps as connectors with communities of faith around the world. Some to stay, and some to go. What if NCF is called to do both? To invest deeply where we are rooted. But also to attend to the seeds that have gone out from us, to water those plantings.
On their arrival, they gathered the church together and reported everything that God had accomplished through their activity, and how God had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. They stayed with the disciples a long time. Acts 14:27-28 (CEB)
May we again gather and report what God has done. May God open doors of faith beyond what we had imagined. May we be encouraged, strengthened, and stand firm in the faith. And by God’s grace return to where we were entrusted, with our work complete. -Renée