Our wonderful run of nine weeks devoted to Genesis, the stories of creation and the patriarchs has just ended. Our attendance mostly numbered from 10 to 15. Our conversations were lively. We were struck by how current and contemporary those ancient stories are to our own stories.
As our last session finished, we decided to keep this good thing going. For at least the next six weeks—maybe more–we will focus on the book of Acts. Again, we cannot help but notice how impressively these stories relate to the present situation of our lives today and the church’s life.
How does Acts match up to our challenge of spiritual living in 2018? The Acts of the Apostles unfolds in a world where Christianity had no taken-for-granted status or support in its society. Guess what? The status of our faith has shifted much like this in America over the last 50 years.
America today has finally become officially secular, religiously pluralistic, and ethnically diverse.
Today, like in the book of Acts, we Christians find ourselves in the minority. The church is no longer “established” like it was back in the days of “Christendom,” which is now done and gone.
Despite no official standing or anything like respect, the church in Acts becomes a dynamic movement, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit. That is exactly our challenge today, friends. In Acts the Holy Spirit is the invisible main character whom Christians draw upon when they seem totally without options and don’t know where to turn to fulfill their divine calling.
In Acts chapter 2 (our second session), the Spirit comes to this scant, fragile community in wind and fire. Suddenly, Jesus’ timid, feeble, and reticent followers are galvanized into leadership. Those who went into hiding as Jesus needed them now step forward in his place as he departs. Despite no real standing, Acts reveals a church that is dynamic and alive, not static and frozen. It is where we learn the gospel message and moment don’t end with the cross and empty tomb.
Just as we would think the faith must become defensive, rocked on its heels, it becomes gutsy and moves sure-handedly with confidence, power, and dignity out into the rest of the world. Nobody predicted this. Maybe we need to learn to see ourselves like this at this similar moment in history. Maybe, as the play by play announcers have it, “The best defense is a good offense.”
Someone said of Jesus, he was always in trouble and yet was forever joyous. Acts shows how to get into trouble for the right reasons, how to give our lives over to God. In Acts, the Roman Empire grows threatened by the striking dramatic change the church kindles. In the face of this, formerly timid Apostles now stand up, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”
Acts is our scriptural case study in how to be feisty and alive at a parallel moment in history. It trades in issues like leadership and conflict; cultural diversity and staying true to the core vision; the disposal of wealth and possessions; the role of women in the church; how church relates to the state; even the challenge of persecution. It teems with rollicking good tales and adventures.
We will continue with our Wednesday, 9:30 am time. We will use an accompanying Bible Study guide for as much structure as we desire. We’ll hear these ancient stories and also tell our own.