The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
“That isn’t my table, but I’ll bring you coffee anyway.” That’s a statement that hearkens back to the days of diners and the waitress in a striped dress with a couple of pots of coffee in her hand, walking around the room. I think it’s a bygone era. If you held up your coffee cup, she’d fill it. If you wanted something else, you would have to wait for the person assigned to your table.
We usually think of Paul’s work as planting church congregations and writing letters to them, encouraging them in the faith. That’s what he seemed to spend most of his time doing, provided he wasn’t in prison. But in between the places where he would settle for a year or more, planting a congregation, he would stop in the cities and towns along the way. If there were Christians there, he would be received by them and have the opportunity to talk with them. Often they would have a church meeting at which he would preach. That seems to be the pattern we find, not only for Paul, but for the other Christian leaders. This is also the routine described in the early Christian document, the Didache, probably dating from the middle of the first century.
In this verse we find Paul going around, strengthening the disciples. He is bringing God’s word to them. He is praying for them and with them. He is helping them see that they are not alone, that they are part of a greater whole. This is a great way to see much of the work of the pastoral office. In my work, I spend a good bit of time in public places. As I meet people, some new, some people I’ve known before, my desire is to bring them the gentle love of Christ. Can I encourage people in their weakness? Can I help them see that the Lord is their strength? Can I serve as a reminder that they are not abandoned in this world? Sometimes there are moments of very clear encouragement and prayer. Sometimes there are longer times, such as a Bible Discussion Group or an organized (or spontaneous) prayer time. Some visits are quite purposeful. And for some of those visits I even know the purpose!
Wherever we go, we can encourage others. Strengthen the disciples! It will only be good for our whole world.
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