July 27, 2021
Laity – Scenic South District
First-Centenary United Methodist Church
22 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.
Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome
23 But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.
30 I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, 32 so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
How often have we felt a little uneasy or apprehensive about an action we need to take or someone we need to talk with, or just challenging work that is part of our job description? It could be a pastor thinking about visiting the spouse of his or her small church’s most faithful member, because they have never cared to make the church part of their life.
Or it can be a lay person’s regular work of having to deal with an angry customer, trying to constructively correct a lower-level employee, or attempting to let your boss know you might be better suited for another job in the company or institution. Hopefully, it can all be done in a spirit of Christian goodwill.
I know throughout my life – in school, work and in my personal relationships – there have been times when I know an emotionally challenging event might be coming up, and I either wished for or was glad to have someone with whom I could confide, as Paul did. I also wanted to handle the situation in a Christ-like manner.
In my journalism career, I have often thought of articles I would like to write, and I eventually approach someone connected to that story after sometimes being initially apprehensive. Nowadays, I can make the initial contact easier by emailing or texting the person, but in the old days I would have to cold-call them on the phone. That still occurs sometimes, and this shy-by-nature person is sometimes relieved when I get the other person’s voice mail recording, and I can leave a message. However, since I am mostly writing feature stories instead of hard news investigative pieces, I many more times than not get a reply that, “sure,” the person would be “glad to talk” with me.
While many of these somewhat dreaded encounters are not direct outreach efforts to win souls for Christ or encourage believers in their faith, I sometimes think how often they could be if I simply try and present myself as Christ would.
I was reminded of this recently, in a backward sort of way, in a conversation. In one of those rare moments in my journalism career, the conversation did not go as hoped. I almost felt as though the person to whom I was talking was talking to me in a condescending manner. She corrected me several times, and I found myself getting a little defensive in my tone, which was probably not good, either. The sad fact was that the story was about a historic church building of another Christian denomination, and she was a church member!
We are all human, but maybe it is good to follow Paul’s advice of asking for prayer, or at least pray ourselves, that we can be favorably received by the Lord’s people in all our encounters by our positive actions.