(pic credit: Pastoral ©2020 by Dick Robinson. Used with permission of the Estate and Family of Dick Robinson)
May 7, 2020
COVID Quarantine Day 58 (ahh, 3/11 so long ago…)
This is a continuation of ‘Healthy Keys 4 Being A Prisoner of Christ’.
[from Quarantine Lessons I thru VI… see previous posts]
There is a very old Sunday-school rhyme/hand-game that goes, “Here is the church, here is the steeple; open the doors and see all the people”
Time to remove that ditty from our Sunday Schools.
The COVID quarantine has stretched us to learn that the building and steeple really don’t matter.
It’s all those people we’re connected to that really matter. This is clearly a lesson that has been a long-time coming to the Western church in this century.
There is not a single reference in the entire Bible where ‘church’ means ‘building’. In the entire New Testament, every reference to ‘Church’ is ‘the people called out from the world and called to God’ (Greek Ekklésia, Strongs 1577).
This ‘being a prisoner of Christ’ series digs into the experience of St. Paul, and his 4-5 years of imprisonment during his ministry life. Clearly, the people he was connected with, his Ekklésia networks were a major part of his life-work.
KEY: *Be Relationally Tied to Your Church
As an ‘iternent missionary’ that worked with/between a number of churches, Paul not only showed that he was tied to these groups of people thru news, but demonstrated that he was vested and involved. One way that the ‘Prison Letters’ of Paul over-lap is in the personal details. He’s involved in the affairs of the congregations in Colossae and Philippi. He’s moving teachers and leaders around in the mix. He’s even suggesting ways that Philemon can deal with a problem.
The ‘dynamo from Colossae’, Epaphras came to Paul in Rome, also bringing connection from the congregations in Laodicea Hierapolis (see Colossians 1:3-8 and 4:12-13)
Vested. Give-and-take. Paul knew what was going on, and they knew what Paul was facing. It took energy and time to do this, in the middle of being chained at the ankles and a Roman guard at the door.
HEART-CHECK: In my ‘quarantine angst’, do I pull-back from the people-connections and curl up with some binge-series on Netflix?
KEY: *Be Woven into the Network of the Body of Christ
Something tells me Paul would have loved the near-instant connection that can be had in our current digital deal. In this Quarantine, he would be found on running his battery down using FaceTime, Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp.
Still, he had visitors, like Epaphroditus from Philippi. He received love-gifts from the congregation of Philippi, helping to pay the bills of his rented house in his first imprisonment (noted in Phil 1). Oh, yeah, Paul sent a little, scribbled letter back with Epaph to the congregation… which we know as The Epistle to the Philippians!!
The household of Onesiphorus ‘refreshed’ Paul. Was this in the form of groceries and a home-baked sweet-cake? Paul was blessed to have friends who came and were not ashamed to associate with a ‘criminal in chains’.
During imprisonment, during quarantine, we need each other. We need to be woven. We need to trade and share some love, even 6-feet-apart. We need to spend more time on the phone and the vid-call than we would normally do so.
We also know that Paul was woven to the congregation in Rome. The church that met in the house of Priscilla and Aquila were called Paul’s ‘co-workers in the ministry of Jesus Christ’ (Rom 16:3). It’s clear that the Saints were practically caring for Paul.
Being ‘woven’ means Romans 16:9-13:
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
HEART-CHECK: Do I let my ‘self-sufficient thing’ hold up the God-sent blessings, sacrificially coming thru others to me during this crisis-time?
KEY: *God Sends Us Faithful Friends Who Sustain
My New Testament prof used to probe, “Jesus had the crowds. Jesus had the seventy-two. Jesus had the twelve. Jesus had his three. You and Jesus… which circle are you running in?”
Paul had quite the list of close friends who came to him in Rome.
They got a roll-credit in the Scriptures:
I have learned that each and every word printed in the Word means something. Not one drop of ink is a waste, and means something to Our Father. That includes the Bible’s pre-occupation with ‘name-lists’.
Here, it means that being connected means something to God.
The people who were tight with Paul meant something. They brought friendship, fellowship, strength, support. In his little rented prison-house, right about the point where Paul would get discouraged… just like any of us can, including Paul (see 2 Corinthians 1)… they go him thru the tough times.
Our ‘Faithful Friends’ help get us thru. These friends will impart sustaining Grace during this Quarantine, and for the long-haul that our COVID-problems may last.
Heart-Check: What my ‘Friends List’? Am I ‘first being friendly’, building a circle
<>Just to say, IF you have to video-binge on something, we really went nuts over ‘The Chosen’ season 1. It’s a new story-take on the life of Jesus, really well done. You can watch for free right now, have to down-load the App (visit your device App store).
<>More Keys to come
written by crisbaj
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All Scripture references from New International Version unless otherwise indicated.
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