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Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The story of God at work in the world continues to unfold. The Spirit works through persons and communities whose words and deeds bear witness to the God who raised Jesus to life. Through that witness, God calls us to accountability and forgiveness. God still speaks, inviting all to receive the Spirit and follow God’s way. Acts 5:27–32 The book of Acts “bridges” the gospels and the New Testament letters, or epistles. Acts moves from stories of Jesus to the stories of Jesus’ community. Acts and Luke share special connections. Tradition attributes the author of Luke as the author of Acts also. But it is more than that. A gospel that began with an edict from Rome (Luke 2:1) comes full circle with the concluding testimony to Paul’s arrival in Rome (Acts 28:14ff). This unfolding story does not come without conflict. The confrontation in the focus scripture began in an earlier edict banning witness to Jesus (Acts 4:18). However, the book of Acts is as much about the acts of the Spirit as about the acts of the apostles, and edicts will not stifle the Spirit. This text too often has been made into an anti-Semitic rant, with tragic results. The problem here is not Judaism. Peter bears witness to Jesus’ raising by the “God of our ancestors.” The church affirms its Jewish roots. The problem is inflexible religious institutions and leaders who will not allow themselves or others to move with the freedom of God’s Spirit. This text calls such institutions and leadership to accountability, in Peter’s time and in our own. Peter’s answer to the Council echoes words and phrases of his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:14–36). Peter defends the apostles’ witness on the basis of “obeying” God. The word translated as obey is peitharecho. It literally means “to follow or do first.” Obedience does not blind itself to reason. Obedience is a matter of priority. Faithful obedience puts first things first. “We are witnesses” reveals a central truth to the whole of Acts. Witness involves community. Witness takes shape in the community’s words, as it does here. Witness also takes shape in the totality of the community’s life together. Earlier passages in Acts tell of community in the sharing of goods, table fellowship, prayer, and attending to teaching. All that the Christian community does – then and now – forms our witness to what and Whom we “put first.” Today’s other readings share in affirming that “God will be God.” Psalm 118:14–29 speaks of God using a stone rejected by builders. God will be God in how and through whom God chooses to work. Using the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, Revelation 1:4–8 declares God to be Alpha and Omega, encompassing all. The litany of Psalm 150 renders praise to God that is universal both in setting and instrument. God will be God wherever life is found. In John 20:19–31 as well as Revelation 1:4–8, God is revealed through brokenness. The faith of Thomas and the wounds of Jesus run close together. The “piercing” of Jesus in Revelation addresses a community who knows suffering first-hand. The fracture in Acts between apostles and temple leaders is another intersection of brokenness and witness. These texts witness that God will be God in the midst in such experiences. We continue to encounter the God who will be God in our lives and our world. In the midst of our own unfolding experiences of God, the church remains a community called by the Spirit to witness. When is it a challenge to “put first things first” in terms of your faith and convictions? What might people in your community learn of the “God who will be God” from the witness of your life and the life of your church?


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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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