In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we are told in great detail where the Apostle Paul traveled on his missionary journeys, a very detailed itinerary during just one season of his life. Why? The Apostle Paul has been traveling with Silas in Syria and Cilicia. They went on to Derbe, then met up with Timothy in Lystra, then to Phrygia, then Galatia. (Why? Because they could not go to Asia.) Then opposite Mysia, they attempted to enter Bithynia, (but were forbidden) so they went down to Troas… and then, because Paul had a dream, they set off to Macedonia… and on and on it goes. Why? Why are we given this endless travelogue? Three reasons.
The most obvious reason is the very reason we do this. If there’s someone we know and love who has been away from us traveling, we want to know all about it. “Where did you go?” “What did you see?” “Who did you meet?” “What impressed you the most?” We want to get current with people we love who have been away from us.
A second reason is that Saint Paul’s readers were an oppressed and persecuted minority. They needed the encouragement that their faith in Jesus was catching fire. If you are suffering, and there’s no immediate remedy for your suffering, the next best thing is to know you are not alone. So the story, this travelogue, is told for the sake of others’ encouragement.
The third reason was to recollect his own life, from where he had come to get to where he is, and to remember his experience of God’s ongoing provision in his life. In Saint Paul’s writings, he uses the verb “remember” 17 times: remember, remember, remember God’s provision in the past to inspire confidence for the present, and hope for the future.[i]
You might find it encouraging to create your own travelogue: how you got to where you are in this moment in time. Remember, recollect your life. Whether you begin with the reports of the rampant Coronavirus several months ago, or whether you stretch your memory back to the beginning of the school year, or beginning of the decade, or to your childhood, whatever, recollect, remember your life. You might find it helpful to do some writing or some drawing to memorialize your life. You are a seasoned traveler in life. Undoubtedly you have been on uncharted territory before. And God has been with you and is with you. Recollect your life, which will inspire confidence in the present and hope for the future. This is a way of “praying your life.”[ii]
This invitation to remember and recollect life might even be something you offer to someone else you know… that you are interested and willing to listen… which will remind them they are not alone, and may help them remember that God cares and God listens.
The Psalm appointed for today ends with a reminder and a promise: “For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his faithfulness endures from age to age.”[iii]
[i] The biblical sense of the word “remember” is literally to re-member, i.e., to re-stich, to suture something that has been severed or separated to where it belongs.
[ii] The English word “confidence” comes from the Latin comfidere: with trust.
[iii] Psalm 100:4.
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