There is an inscription carved into the United States Post Office building on the corners of 8th Avenue and 33rd Street in New York City that reads; “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” The quote dates back to around 500 B.C. in the works of Herodotus in describing the Persian postal couriers and their commitment to their appointed task.
It has long been attributed to the U.S. Postal Service and for those of us living in the Northeast the last few days we have a renewed appreciation for our local letter carrier as winter temperatures of -5 to -15 below zero dropped to -35 or more degrees with wind chills. Dedication to their tasks was evident everyday they made deliveries.
There is a great example of a biblical mail courier in that of the person of Tychicus. Mentioned repeatedly in Paul’s letters as being his personal letter carrier to the various churches, he shows us what a servant heart looks like. In fact every time he is mentioned in scripture (Acts 20:4, Ephesians 6:21, 2 Timothy 4:12, Colossians 4:7) it is related to his running a message related errand for Paul.
Now stop and put his mail delivery missions in perspective of the time and culture. These were long and perilous journeys where there were not instant online reservations or package tours to join. They involved hundreds of miles of travel by boat, donkey or camel, even more likely was the majority of them being walked on foot. They would have been journeys counted in weeks and months, not hours and days. The Colossians letter alone would have traveled over 800 miles from Paul being in prison in Rome to the fledgling church in Colossae. Yet Tychicus did it over and over again in service.
Why was he so committed to being Paul’s personal mail carrier? He knew that the growing churches across the region were in need of the instruction and encouragement that Paul’s letters would provide. These letters were not just delivered to one small house church and forgotten. They were read and reread, copied and sent on to other churches that had been spun off and planted by the local believers and by the other disciples during mission trips. The letters took on a life of their own in ministering and sustaining the many churches of the period.
“…….Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” Colossians 4:17b (New American Standard Bible)
We can learn a lot from the example of Tychicus. We each have a role to play in building the kingdom. No job is too small or “unimportant” for furthering the cause of Christ. While it may be tempting to pass Tychicus off as just a letter carrier, we miss the point of his dedication to the spreading of the Gospel and his willingness to serve. Even if the service was to be the personal courier for Paul to correspond with new churches. We each have something we are called upon to do for ministry and we need to be sure we fulfill it. Or as the New Living Translation reads “….Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” Are some roles in the ministry of the gospel more visible than others? Sure, but there is not one more vital than any other. We tend to forget that and our sense of pride or need for recognition can prevent us from taking on a task of role that seems unglamorous, thankless or what we consider “beneath us”. We forget that God doesn’t care about the altitude of a calling he cares about attitude by which it is undertaken.
The church today does not suffer from a lack of bodies inside our walls to be actively making an impact for Christ, we suffer woefully from a lack of the commitment of those same people to respond to the ministry callings placed inside each of them. Each of us is called in some capacity and we need to be actively seeking that motivation to answer our calling. The dream that has been placed in our hearts needs to be fostered and given roots to grow and shame on the local church that does not make it a priority to nurture and equip members to see those dreams into reality.
We in the local church need to be in the business of constantly finding ways to build and further the kingdom. We need to encourage ourselves and each other to look at Christian service in a new perspective with the example of Tychicus as a model for what we consider important.
We need to be carrying some mail.