Scattered and Faithful

Key Text: Acts 8:4-8

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.  Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there.  When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said.  For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.  So there was great joy in that city.

The predicted time of “severe persecution” had begun.  The followers of the risen Christ were like seed cast to the wind and the wind, as Jesus said, blows where it will – a fitting metaphor for God’s Spirit.

Scripture tells us that “all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria.  Devout men buried Stephen (the first of many Christian martyrs to come) and made loud lamentation over him.  But Saul (who would become the great apostle known as Paul) was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.”

It was a dark and frightening time, to say the least.

It was also a time of great growth in God’s kingdom.

The passage above gives one powerful illustration of this, telling of Philip’s ministry in the city of Samaria.  His preaching there; exorcising; healing – they all speak of how God was powerfully at work at the very time when some were trying to snuff out the small flame of the early church when it had only just  begun to bring light and hope to the world.

We too, thousands of years later, can be among the scattered and faithful.

Whether or not we are literally driven by persecution into lands previously unknown is less the point than that we can preach the word wherever we are.

It is important to remember too that preaching the word does not always have to mean literally giving a sermon.  St. Francis reminded us of that – how we should “preach the gospel always; if necessary use words.”

So here’s a question – where is God sending you next?

Where can you bring light and hope and healing, under the Spirit’s guidance and power?

If you are open to it – you may find that you are sent into some very unusual circumstances to meet some very unusual challenges – all in the name of Christ.

That’s how God works miracles.

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. “Elpis” is the Greek word for “expectant hope.” He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, and a member of Spiritual Directors International. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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