Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator, Allentown
While Apollos was in Corinth,
Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus.
Our readings in Acts this week have Paul and others traveling to places with names that may sound familiar to us: Philippi; Thessalonica; Galatia; Corinth; and Ephesus. We know these names from the Letters in the New Testament, written by or attributed to Paul: Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Ephesians. It is interesting to compare the letters of Paul with what the Acts of the Apostles says about Paul and others’ ministry in these places. As I was reading in Acts 16 about Paul’s warm welcome from Lydia in Philippi when he first arrived, and how she provided hospitality again after he got out of prison, it gave me new insight into the Letter to the Philippians, which is the most affectionate of his letters.
Paul’s letters usually follow a particular pattern that was the standard at that time: a statement of who is writing the letter; a salutation; a summary of the letter’s subject; an expansion on that subject; and a set of guidelines for the community. The letters were dictated by Paul and carried by his companions to the congregations where they were read aloud to the gathering. The letters were sometimes shared with other churches.
We see in these letters Paul’s pastoral concern about issues in the congregation, as well as his continued teaching of the faith in light of those issues. They have both a personal and universal dimension, which makes them still worth reading today in our own congregations and our own devotions.
Paul was using the technology that was available to him to communicate with and minister to the congregations he served. Today, we have a much wider variety of technologies with which to communicate and minister with our congregations and others. We have letters, newsletters, email, phone calls, conference calls, texts, Facebook pages, blogs, Instagram, Skype, Twitter…the list goes on and on, and who knows what new thing there will be tomorrow?
Each of these forms of communication has its patterns and uses. Knowing when to use one and not another can be a challenge. Just think how much worse the conflict between Paul and the church in Corinth, which we read about in 2 Corinthians, might have become if Paul had been using email! But how wonderful it might have been if he could have face-timed, like a granddaughter in another state did when I was doing the Ministration at the Time of Death with her grandmother, so the granddaughter could say “goodbye” with us.
In doing this Pilgrimage Blog, I have looked at many churches’ websites and Facebook pages to learn about their life and ministry. Some are great; some not so much. If we were relying on my skills alone my church probably wouldn’t even have a website or Facebook page because I am not very good at these things. But I realize how important it is to use the technologies available to us, as Paul did, to minister to one another, and to continue to teach the faith. Luckily, like Paul, we have a variety people who can use their gifts to work with us; to write, to carry the message, to read and share it. Like the early church, together we can proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
What gifts for communicating through technology do you have that you can share with your congregation?