Scripture: Acts 1:1–11
This morning, we heard from people in our congregation representing Family Promise of Lawrence (local missions, “Jerusalem”) and Bethel Neighborhood Center in Kansas City, KS (regional missions, “Judea and Samaria”). Please view the worship video to hear about these excellent organizations.
Below is the text from Pastor Matt Sturtevant’s meditation, also found in the worship video.
How many of you all have seen any Star Wars movie? If you have, you know that most Star Wars movies begin basically the same way: a field of stars, with a bunch of yellow words scrolling up into infinity. This is sometimes called the opening scroll or opening crawl. And this crawl serves two purposes. First, it reaches back into time and explains the context. What happened before. Who did what to whom. And then secondly, it reaches forward and serves as an introduction for the movie you are about to see. Who are the main characters, and why do they matter?
Chapter One of Acts is the opening crawl for the books of Luke and Acts. Many of you will know that the same author who wrote the Gospel of Luke also wrote the book of Acts. They are set up as companions to each other: Episode One and Episode Two, if you will (or, to continue the Star Wars metaphor, Episode Four and Episode Five, but that is a longer story). So, these first words reach back into the first book—Luke—and remind the reader of all the stuff that Jesus did in that book. Then, there is a bit of a transition to set the context, and then an introduction of the new main characters. Jesus says goodbye. The disciples are re-introduced, minus Judas. And then the Holy Spirit moves front and center.
Justo Gonzalez writes that the main character of the book of Acts is the Holy Spirit. He goes as far as to call Acts the Gospel of the Spirit. Throughout the book, names such as Peter and Paul and Phillip and Steven come and go. But the Holy Spirit is always there. In fact, the Holy Spirit has always been there from the first chapter of Luke. In that first Episode, the Spirit was more in the background, but now the Spirit has moved to front and center. Gonzalez writes that the book is full of “cases in which the Spirit seems to correct, and perhaps even slightly to mock, what the apostles and other leaders of the Church do and decide.”
All of this brings us to what is going to be our primary verse for the next couple of weeks: verse 8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Holy Spirit will guide the way, and lead you a) into the streets of your current familiar context…Jerusalem, b) into the region that you know and frequent…Judea and Samaria, and c) into places that you have never been before…the ends of the earth. For us, what that means is this: over the next two weeks, we are going to hear about how the Holy Spirit continues to be at work…acting…correcting…maybe even mocking our know-it-all plans, in order to bring about God’s mission and justice on earth. This week, we’ll hear about our Jerusalem here in Lawrence, and our Judea and Samaria into the streets of Kansas City, Kansas. Next week, we’ll hear more about the ends of the earth, reporting from a couple of mission experiences to places that many of us have never been.
Each step along the way, I want us to keep our eyes open for the main character in this journey. Where do you see the Holy Spirit at work? What is the Holy Spirit guiding us to do and be? How do we need to set aside our own assumptions and plans and join the Spirit already at work? Join me these next couple of weeks, as we listen and learn.