“For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that from Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ, thus making it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘They shall see who have never been told of him, and they shall understand who have never heard of him.’” (Rom 15: 18-21)
Here’s a curious thought, about our Church’s above-quoted reading for this Thursday: St. Paul is not interested in preaching where others have preached before him. Because in Paul’s day, just as it is in our day, there were plenty of people who had “never been told of Him.” So Paul goes to those “who have never heard of Him.” The “apostolic” concern, of the great Apostle to the Gentiles, is not to “build on another man’s foundation.” In other words, he didn’t fish in another’s pond.
Today things are far more complicated, I know, with our countless Christian “confessions” and even Orthodox “jurisdictions,” which (almost inevitably) tend to compete, to a greater or lesser degree, for more territory. I understand that our time is different, but here’s my simple thought, inspired by St. Paul’s apostolic thoughts, voiced above: Shouldn’t we, as a Church “apostolic,” focus our mission on those “who have never heard of Him,” rather than build on the foundation of others? I know, this may seem an obscure point, not important to most of us, who do not see ourselves as missionaries, even though we are all called to be, in some way or another.
But it’s all I’ve got on this reading for today, which made me think of what it means to be an “apostolic” Church, in the footsteps of St. Paul, not interested in gaining “territory” on “another man’s foundation,” but in revealing Christ to those who “have never been told of Him.”