January 8, 2019
Perry Engle – Bishop, Midwest and Pacific Conferences
Bible meditation: Acts 6:8-9:31 (spread of the gospel, Hellenists and Samaritans)
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. …Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Acts 8:1, 4
In the shadow of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia is a passageway containing 14 worn granite steps leading down to where ships used to dock along the Delaware River. These are the last set of public stairs of Pennsylvania founder William Penn, and they date back to the early 1700s. I’ve sat on these steps and wondered if our immigrant forebearers climbed this stairwell as they disembarked from their ships after escaping persecution in Europe. After landing, they then scattered to farmland along the Susquehanna River. Among these refugees the Brethren in Christ Church was birthed almost 250 years ago.
Our BIC roots remind us of the early Church, when the martyrdom of Stephen led to a great persecution that caused the Church to be scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). The first expansion of the Church, it most certainly was not the way the earliest believers expected God’s Word to go forth.
Yet, Scripture tells us that “those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). As they scattered, they encountered strange new people receptive to the Word of God — people from Judea, Samaria, and Ethiopia. Even the Great Persecutor himself — Saul — encountered Jesus in a life-transforming way (Acts 9), and the world has never been the same.
It’s a reminder that our own BIC immigrant story compels us to climb the stairs from wherever we have grown comfortable to share the Word wherever God scatters us. To strange new people that we have never before encountered, whose languages we don’t yet understand — to preach the Word of God “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2), even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Father, show us where you want to scatter us. Remove from us the need to be comfortable, and lead us to the people you desire to reach with your Word.