Throughout the great 50 days of Easter, it’s traditional to have readings from The Acts of the Apostles each Sunday. This remarkable account of the formation of the earliest Christian communities is the sister book in a two-part testimony known to us as Luke-Acts, and is likely written by the same hand.
Professor and author William H. Willimon describes the book of Acts this way, “In Acts, Luke utilizes material from a number of early Christian sources, presenting it with a variety of literary techniques, to proclaim the mighty acts of God.
The story told here is open-ended, because it continues today in your church and mine.” As the body of Christ, Christian community is both our challenge and our joy.
Perhaps there’s no better way to examine both the delights and the heartaches of being a community of faith than to read Luke-Acts. The book of Acts, in particular, focuses on relationships. It’s about finding our place in the world, and standing in the integrity of our faith. It teaches us about patience and action, how to wait, listen, discern and act on God’s word.
The book of Acts is about people like us who, whether we embrace it wholeheartedly or fear it, are called to live, love and learn together. Acts teaches us how to negotiate our differences. The stories in the book of Acts also open our eyes to just how much diversity truly enriches us, in the abundance of God’s love.
Like all Scripture, Acts empowers us to share our gifts with others as we love and serve the Lord faithfully, and to celebrate the fruit of the Spirit in our midst.
The season of Easter has a myriad of opportunities for each of us to deepen our spiritual roots, and broaden our ministries. As we experience the reality of resurrection living, we also experience healing.
While we often believe that healing is just about a miraculous physical recovery, that’s not the only type of healing in which God blesses us. There’s also emotional and spiritual healing. Reconciliation is God’s gift of healing for our hearts and minds after long periods of estrangement or isolation. It’s firmly connected to the gift of forgiveness, which also brings healing.
There’s healing in the compassionate, loving and merciful care of a community of believers. Or healing that comes with God’s peace when we face a serious illness or life-changing event with courage.
We’ll all experience suffering as part of our life journeys. This is also addressed in Acts, as well as the first letter of Peter, who as an apostle and community leader figures prominently in Acts. Peter teaches us about unjust suffering in a broken world. Many of us view unjust suffering as a rejection by others, or even worse, as some kind of divine punishment.
Our suffering is not a measure of God’s love, or God’s view of us. Our self-worth is not determined by the unjust actions of others, and in no way reflects how much God loves each of us as His beloved children.
Jesus’ resurrection teaches us that God’s redemption is always life giving, expansive and abundant. We know that the Holy Spirit will guide us into healing and abundant life. Our work is to trust God, and lean on Him for strength to endure.
This month, let’s examine aspects of our own lives and our common life as the body of Christ, reflected in Acts. As witnesses to Christ, consider Acts, Chapter 2, and how the Holy Spirit empowers the disciples on the Day of Pentecost.
For anyone struggling with illness, consider Acts, Chapter 3, and the miracle of healing wrought in Christ’s name.
Looking to reach out? Then consider Acts, Chapter 6, as an invitation to serve the poor and hungry in our community. When we’re feeling resistant to God in Christ, Acts, Chapter 9, speaks of the power of God to transform our anger and misunderstanding into passionate witness.
There is, of course, more! Take the journey into Acts, explore and let God reveal your growing edges. Whatever challenges and joys we’re currently experiencing, The Acts of the Apostles helps us to see God at work in our lives.
The stories we read there are our stories, because they’re stories with purpose, authored by God.
• The Rev. Susan E. Wilmot is priest-in-charge at St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church, 975 E. Warner Road, Tempe. Reach her at email@example.com or at (480) 345-2686.