Canon Maria Tjeltveit
Church of the Mediator
“‘But get up and stand on your feet;
for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you
to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me
and to those things in which I will appear to you.’”
Speaking to King Agrippa and the governor Festus, Paul makes his defense, retelling the story of his being blinded by the light of God and hearing Jesus speak to him (Acts 26). At the end of his defense, Festus says Paul is out of his mind. Paul appeals to Agrippa, who wants to know if Paul is trying to make Agrippa a Christian. Paul’s response is his prayer is that “all might become such as me—except for these chains” (Acts 26:29). The two men agree that Paul has done nothing to deserve death and that he “could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor” (Acts 26:32).
In Paul’s Damascus road experience, Jesus Christ was offering him both a commission and a promise: that Paul is to serve and testify because God has already appeared to Paul and will appear to him again in the future. Paul had no way of knowing in what things the Lord would appear to him. He had to stand up and move forward not being able to see the future but trusting that God would be there. It sounds rather like an invitation to pilgrimage.
Two churches, named for Christ who appeared to Paul, are seeking to serve and testify to how they have seen God and to discern how God will appear to them in the future.
In 1911, a portion of land that was a cemetery was deeded to Grace Church, Honesdale “for the erection and maintenance of a church for religious worship and sheds for the accommodation of the horses and vehicles of the worshippers” (A Journey through the Historic Diocese of Bethlehem, p.110). In 1912, Christ Church, Indian Orchard, was consecrated, in an area surrounded by farms. Today Christ Church is a very small, close-knit congregation, more like a family, served by supply clergy. In spite of their size and the relative age of their members, they reach out into the community, providing lunches for Habitat for Humanity crews that work nearby, helping with the local food pantry, and donating sleeping bags to the emergency shelter at Grace Church. The church is discerning where God will appear to them and lead them in the future.
Christ Church, Forest City, began in 1887, with services in an old school house. It was first called Good Shepherd, but when they broke ground for a church, in 1891, the name was changed to Christ Church. The church can testify to the presence of God with them over the past century. They continue to serve the community which, like the church, has gone through cycles of boom and bust in the mining and logging industries. They give away free winter coats, in partnership with the American Legion. They feed people through their monthly free community meals, and helping with a mobile food pantry. This summer, they are moving their service to Saturday evenings, trying out some innovative forms of worship, including Dinner Church, to see what God is calling them to do.
How do you testify to the things in which God has appeared to you in the past?
Can you trust, as you face the future, that God will appear to you in more things?