I’m looking forward to seeing you again this Sunday after a short, but packed trip to Colorado last weekend! I can’t wait to share some of that experience with you in the near future, but suffice it to say that lessons abound when you follow your brother-in-law into the Colorado wilderness while he attempts to run 100 miles through the Rocky Mountains in less than 30 hours! So many stories, most eliciting this response: “you did what?!”
On a different note, letters have taken on an interesting place in my life lately, and for a few different reasons. Like many people in my generation, I don’t receive many letters, even fewer that are handwritten. That’s probably why the receipt of a letter tends to take on added meaning and value. For instance, many of you have written such encouraging notes about our church and our ministry together. Those letters have meant so much, not only because of the words you shared, but because you took the time to put thought to paper! It’s the kind of thing that reminds me of unreasonable neighboring because the standard practice of our day is to text or email. Writing a note is going the extra mile. It’s funny what an unexpected impact this can make – I wrote my kids a short note before leaving for a business trip several years ago. I was shocked to find a few months ago that both of them kept that note, even through a cross-country move, because it spoke something to them that a hundred text messages could not have.
I also started thinking more about letters after my father passed away. My brother and I, in the process of cleaning out his house, found several boxes of letters that Dad saved from various periods throughout his life. Those voices from the past – some his own, and some from others who were important in his life – were fascinating, unexpected, heartbreaking, illuminating and elicited a host of other emotions. The power of those letters from the past continues to surprise, challenge and expand the way I understand my father and the complicated life that he lived.
It’s easy for us to forget that so much of the New Testament (the story of Jesus and the early Christian movement) is comprised of letters written by followers of Jesus to their friends and communities. Those letters carry all the context, nuance and emotion that our letters might carry, but we only hear one side of the communication. It’s like listening to someone talking on the phone and trying to guess what the person at the other end of the line might be saying. Nonetheless, these voices from the past pose a power to challenge our minds and transform our hearts. That’s why we continue to read them two millennia after they were written!
We’re starting a new teaching series this Sunday that will carry us through Paul’s letter to Titus. If you haven’t had an opportunity to read this letter from mentor to mentee, I hope you’ll take the chance to do so before Sunday. It’s only 3 chapters, and won’t take you more than a few minutes to read. Paul’s words are challenging and encouraging, confusing and enlightening, convicting and empowering. It’s a wild ride through some of the challenges facing the early church, many of which continue into the present!