By John Larkins
The journey on The Way has now spanned about 2,000 years and will traverse another 2,000 years to be here in Gadsden. Our title can apply to several realities. It is applied to the earliest glimpse of people and places locating God’s method, His Church, the people, some born, some not. The initial belief system and procedural instructions, tangible and shadows that never are completely gone, only developing as a seed sprouting and changing into an end for individual people but to a new reality for individual souls. God is evident in disguise on earth (for example, a burning bush or a fire in the sky), then actually is present in heaven AND on earth. All this action was guided and molded to bring human souls into God’s presence for eternity, if they choose.
When Jesus went back to His Father’s home, Peter was stressed and busy. After all, no human had ever been ordered to organize, lead and plan for a worldwide expansion, to make and explain policy modifications for a new Church while trying to avoid being killed. Peter was short one bishop and had to find an acceptable selection process to agree with his other leaders. Given that Jesus turned over the keys to Peter in about 33 A.D., even though his little Church was growing, the Christians were still meeting in Jewish synagogues while evangelizing Jews to join them by converting to “The Way.”
The most wonderful gift to humans, the answer to their most wrenching problems and sins, could now be forgiven by through a priest Jesus’s orders! Via this same Church, a human can eat Jesus’s body and drink His blood! John VI, 56, says, “He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in me, and I in him.”
One of the conversion issues concerned circumcision. In “The Way,” baptism was the initiation sacrament chosen by Jesus, so the older rite was not part of the “new wine in the new wineskin.”
James was the leader of the new Church parish, while Peter took care of matters at a higher level. Jesus had directed Peter and the disciples to preach to ALL nations, even if, at first, they were to restrict their efforts to the Israelites. The new disciple, Paul, showed a real talent and enthusiasm for such work. After 70 A.D., the Romans brought terrible repression, particularly to the Jews. The Jews did not want to continue their relationship with members of “The Way,” so the Christians shifted to meeting in one another’s homes (the disciples were first called “Christians” in Antioch). In Acts, 9, 30:31, a short passage relates to the development of the new Church organization in Paul’s (Saul’s) integration into The Way: “Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him forth to Tarsus. Then peace came to the rest of Churches. Throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria were edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”
Paul and Barnabas carried out a mission through Iconium, Lystra and Antioch. Paul summarized their accomplishments by reporting that they strengthened many new disciples. Paul and Barnabas appointed presbyters in each Church as missionary Churches in “The Way” and commended them to the Lord in whom they put their faith. This pattern of growth was a successful model, but the mission is not yet over for the Kingdom of God.
Paul and his several team members did their work 2,000 years ago, 1500 years before the first non-Catholic Church was started by a dissatisfied priest. About the year 100 A.D., the writings we know as the Bible were selected by Catholics, who now had the name given by a Catholic bishop on his way to execution by the Romans. The book was closed with the death of John, but The Way is still open!
John Larkins was born in Oklahoma to an U.S. Army family. His education was in the Catholic Church and teaching in the United Methodist Church for 10 years. After 50 years of various positions in federal service at home and in Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, John and his wife Carol live in Gadsden. His formal education includes a BS certified for science teaching, an MBA from the University of Missouri and an MPA from Jacksonville State University in public administration and environmental management. For the past 15 years, John evangelized on the street, door-to-door, in tent revivals, and church situations. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.