Gathering Around Us
Happy Wednesday! Wednesday is the day that I write these Central thoughts, and it’s also the day that I lead the men’s bible study in the morning. And to say the least, the last few Wednesdays have not gone as planned. First, Jonah was sick and I stayed home to take care of him. Then Eli was sick and I had to stay home with him. Then I was sick and had to stay home myself. Then, of course, my sister died tragically, and I could not be here again.
The last few weeks have not gone as planned, but I was happy to be back here at Central this morning to lead the bible study again, and I’m so glad I was.
We read most of Acts 14. In that chapter, there’s a story where Paul and Barnabas go to a town called Lystra and heal a man, and the townsfolk mistake them for gods (for Hermes and Zeus), and they have to reject their sacrifices so they can redirect the townsfolk towards the real, living God.
It’s a wild story, with an even wilder ending.
After they do that, some overly-zealous religious people come and stir up the townsfolk against them, they get out their torches and pitchforks (so to speak), and they attack Paul: stoning him to the point where they thought he was dead, and dragging him outside of the city to die alone, helpless, and hopeless.
Quite the scene.
But then something else happens: the early church (the disciples) who were in Lystra, we’re told,
“gathered around him and he got up and went back into the city.”
When I read that this morning, I thought, “what a beautiful picture of what the church is supposed to be like.”
Think about it for a minute: someone is beat up from rough circumstances in life, and the church ‘gathers around him’ to get him back up on his feet.
If only the church could be known by this.
It’s down-right Good Samaritan-like.
I’ve shared this already, but I’ll say it again: in a very real way, my family and I have felt this over the course of the past week or so. No, we haven’t been nearly stoned to death, but losing my sister like we did has left us feeling beaten up and beaten down, certainly dazed, and exhausted.
And like for Paul, disciples (ie, you, the church) have gathered around us and gotten us back up on our feet.
And they (you) continue to do so.
We are so thankful, and perhaps more importantly, it’s such a beautiful witness of the church that people too often don’t get to experience.
May we be known by this.
May we be known by love.
In a day and age where the church is known by what it’s against, by our ugly politics, by scandal after scandal, by abuse of all kinds, by who we’re kicking out and removing, may we be known as people who ‘gather around’ those who are beat up and beat down, in order to get them back up, to bring about healing and reconciliation and renewal, to bring about new life.