So far, this summer has found me largely feeling like a nomad. I just haven't been able to stay in any one place for more than a few days at a time. First came the Central/Southern Illinois Synod Assembly in Champaign in early June. Then, I returned to Canton for less than 24 hours to lead worship on June 10 before setting off for two weeks of vacation that took me and Andrea to visit each of our families and enjoy a couple days at Niagara Falls--a trip which, although it was a vacation, was not without its challenges as I discovered that my cell phone had no service in Canada. Finally, less than three days after getting back for worship on June 24, I boarded an Amtrak Texas Eagle train bound for Houston and the ELCA Youth Gathering...and I am sitting on that same train, somewhere south of St. Louis, as I write this to you.
Our Youth Gathering trip is going well so far. A few of the youth have decided to call it a night, while the rest are enjoying card games with Youth Gathering participants from other congregations who are also riding our train. I look forward to having a front-row seat to all that the Holy Spirit will do in these young people's lives throughout the coming week as they serve people in Jesus's name and encounter God in worship, Bible study, and fellowship. Everything is possible with God (Luke 1:37), so I won't even begin to speculate what all God will do with them--in just going to celebrate whatever that is!
A quarter of the way into a roughly 20-hour combined train and bus trip after weeks of practically non-stop travel, I just had a moment to reflect on how traveling has been a Christian faith practice from the very beginning. This thoughtful wandering began as I considered the Gospel reading for July 8 (Mark 6:1-13), the second half of which is the story of Jesus sending out the twelve disciples to take his healing power to the villages of Galilee. This story, in conjunction with Luke's story of Jesus sending out 70 disciples and the missionary journeys of Paul, gives me a new appreciation for the importance of travel in the first years of the church.
But that new appreciation soon came with a new conundrum when I realized how accordingly paradoxical it is that the Spirit calls and gathers us in particular places as Christ's church to minister to people in those places. For example, the Holy Spirit has called you and me to share the good news of Jesus in the Canton area. We are rooted in this place, with most of us not poised for travel adventures like the missionaries in the New Testament or the full-time missionaries we help fund through our ELCA.
Perhaps we can resolve this paradox a bit, though, if we think about it a little differently. Maybe the point of all that traveling in the New Testament isn't the traveling itself--it's that Christians are sent out by Jesus to be his compassionate and loving presence in the world, wherever we are. Christian ministry is summed up not primarily by where God works through our hands but rather what God does through them.
Just as I make no presumptions regarding what amazing things God will do through the hands of Trinity's youth at the ELCA Youth Gathering, neither will I make any about what God will do through you today, wherever you are--I will simply trust that almighty God is at at work through you and give thanks for your ministry as you so prayerfully give thanks for mine!
Pastor Micah Garnett has been our Pastor since July 2016. He grew up in York, PA and graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. He enjoys worship, working with social services in Fulton County, writing hymns, and cycling.