The story of early Christianity and the formation of the church is chronicled in Holy Scripture. The Acts of the Apostles and the numerous letters sent to fledgling church communities in places such as Philippi, Corinth, Galatia, and Rome portray the development and growth of our faith tradition.
It is the story of faithful people shaped in a fast-paced world defined by divisions of race, class, citizenship, and economic standing. People who in turn influenced that world with faith in a loving God. They saw themselves a part of a larger faith movement. Our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, refers to this movement regularly, as the Jesus Movement.
The early church looked nothing like what we consider church today. Most churches were small and based in a home. A house church was connected to other house churches through letters, story, song, prayers, preaching, and teaching. They were informed by apostles, elders, teachers, and preachers about their connection to other Christians and ultimately, to a larger Jesus-centered movement. Apostles had been sent to spread good news to them, and they in turn did the same, sending the news of God’s love for all people throughout the world.
The technology of the day, a highly developed and efficient system of Roman roads, moved goods and governance throughout the Roman Empire. It also allowed early Christians to spread and strengthened the faith of the close-knit faith communities forming throughout the Mediterranean region.1
Every Sunday, I experience the outpouring of love Episcopalians have for God, each other, the church, and surrounding communities. Our churches are in diverse settings with unique opportunities to serve God’s people in the parish and beyond parish doors. Even so, sometimes we forget that we are part of a bigger movement. As Presiding Bishop Curry frequently says, we are the Episcopal branch of today’s Jesus Movement. We are all are sent by God to share the good news of God’s love for all people throughout the world.
Every Sunday I see proof of each parish’s place in this movement. Further, I see evidence of God’s generosity in every parish. God has given our parishes an abundance of time, knowledge, skill, experience, healing, love, and financial resources to do all the ministries they are called to do. God has also given us instructive guides, our sacred texts: Holy Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer. And if that were not enough, every congregation is blessed with elders, intercessors, teachers, clergy, and lay leaders. Like those small close-knit communities in the first century, we are connected to something much bigger than ourselves.
We have choices to make. We can spend our time worrying and fretting over who is not in church. Or we can remember our history, look at all God has blessed us with, and take our place in this faith movement that continues far beyond Jerusalem and the first century.
Our parishes are an oasis of God’s abundance, hope and hospitality in a fast-paced world. The need for our close-knit communities of faith grows stronger every day. Now is the time to sharpen our focus, remember our history, and share the hope God has placed within us everywhere we go. We are the change God intends to make in our homes, churches, communities, and in the world.
Grace and peace,
1Meeks, Wayne: The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), p17, 75.