In this Season of Easter, which is the six Sundays between Easter Sunday and Pentecost, instead of an Old Testament lesson, we hear stories from the Acts of the Apostles. I commend you to read all of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, since what we hear each Sunday are only small portions of the whole book. The Acts of the Apostles is a fascinating read about the early church, and might give us more insight about the Resurrection than the Gospels do.
As you read, I encourage you to ask the question, what is the main theme? What is the one thing that motivates the Apostles to “act” as they do? How do they interpret the life and identity of Jesus as compared to the Gospels?
In the early church, they did not have a choir, an organ, silver vessels and vestments. They did not have purpose built spaces to meet of brick and mortar. They also did not have paid clergy, staff, or programs. The church looked very different in its origin. They did have teachers and teachings, and some letters they passed around. They had some songs they sang together. They practiced breaking bread together in remembrance of Jesus. What else did they have and do that we do not notice so much today?
For example, it is interesting to note that the Apostles interpreted the message and life of Jesus in such a way that they responded by sharing material wealth in common. We also know they were strict pacifists, refusing military service of any kind. They struggled with the expansiveness of the mission, when Gentiles were added to the group. They appointed Deacons to make sure that widows were receiving food. They healed the sick. Many of them felt compelled to spread the good news - specifically of the Resurrection of Jesus, traveling great distances to do so, and risking imprisonment, torture and death. Imagine what it was like for the people living in Jerusalem to hear Peter’s words. “Brothers, fellow Israelites, we are not drunk as you suppose for it is only nine o'clock in the morning… Jesus of Nazareth, you crucified and killed. But God raised him up having freed him from death because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.” Acts 2: 15, 23-24.
And three thousand were added that day.
As you read, also consider what this means for the mission of the church today: For us in our own day. What is the main theme? What motivates us to act? What does the power of the Holy Spirit look like in our lives? What risks are we willing to take to spread the message of the Resurrection? How do we interpret the life and message of Jesus Christ, and how shall we respond?