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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

We Write the Second Book of Acts - 05/23/2021

I heard an excellent sermon this week on how we are, right now, with our very lives, writing the story of the Second Book of Acts.

I think that is a beneficial way to think about our Christian lives, as individuals and—more critically perhaps—as a collective.

We often talk about the marvels of our constantly creating and re-creating God. God created all that we can know and all that we cannot know, and God is not done yet– not with this creation, not with you or me, or the Church. God is not done yet in that place where you find endless joy or that other place that is quite plainly a dumpster fire.

And so, created and re-created by our God, it is not a leap at all to think about our lives—what we speak and pray and proclaim in here and even more so, out there—as though we are writing the Second Book of Acts.

This is a suitable time to think deeply about what it means to be writing the Second Book of Acts. Any time is probably an appropriate time to think deeply about how the Christian story carries on in and through us.

But right now … we are living in a vastly different kind of time. The pandemic is forcing us to think about what it means to be a baptizing and communing people in a world in which one can truthfully say a lot of the church had left the building long before we knew what COVID was. The pandemic forced us all to do that quite literally for too many long weeks. And while it’s been painful and frightening and frustrating much of the time, it has also given us a massive reset button. What re-creation is underway right now? How is God truly at work among us and around us, and where might we see new opportunity or new invitation to join in? What have we outgrown that perhaps we should leave behind? What will be the stories of how we, how Christ’s Church on earth is glorifying God and boldly loving neighbor as the storylines and characters of the Second Book of Acts take shape?

Right now, we have a vastly different kind of time because this is the only time Alexis and Noah will be graduating from high school. As they prepare for graduation and where their vocations take them next, and perhaps as they think back on their experiences of being one of God’s Beloved in this glorious corner of the planet, at this time, what will they add to the pages of the Second Book of Acts? I have had the privilege of getting to know these two over the last six years and I can tell you that those pages will be rich with Alexis’ spirit for community and fierce loyalty to those she loves. Those pages will be made even more inspiring by Noah’s heart for adventure and his willingness to help a brother or sister out.

Thinking about how we add to the pages of the Second Book of Acts is intriguing, kind of exciting and, admittedly, maybe even a little terrifying. I mean, this is a significant role in God’s on-going re-creation, right?

It’s like God coming in here and saying, “Hey, Alexis, Noah! Congratulations on your high school graduation! And now, as you come into new beginnings, I continue to go with you and before you, and you should also know your lives and words will prophesy that I am God. You will be my examples of how much I love this world.”

Or “Hey, Church, no need to fret over declining worship attendance, shrinking resources, and uncertainty. Because I pour my Spirit all over you. The ways I create and re-create you will also be prophesy to the world. It will happen though your old men and women who still dream of new possibilities. It will happen through any of the everyday, unassuming, regular old jacks and jills who come among you.”

Yes, this could all be a little terrifying.

Nonetheless, if we hold to our idea that we are writing the Second Book of Acts right now, it is indeed Alexis and Noah, the people of Eden and so many more, who fill the pages of the sacred story with what we speak and pray and how we proclaim the mighty acts of God.

That might seem like a lot to put so squarely on the shoulders of these young adults or any of us, truly.

And it is. It’s not easy being a Jesus follower in this world. It never has been. Being people called to put community before self, forgiveness before condemnation, mercy before judgment and the like makes us look the fool to much of the world.

Being people who profess that the abundant life we have in the Risen Christ is everything and all we need, even though it cannot be measured in dollars, possessions, power or connections, doesn’t make so much sense to a lot of people.

It is an intriguing idea writing this Second Book of Acts, even exciting, I’d argue. And being the ones God uses to author this book is kind of terrifying.

Except that it’s not, and I’ll give you two reasons why.

First, we’re talking about the Second Book of Acts – which can only be so because there was a first book of Acts. We have the experience of these first Jesus-following communities to inspire and even instruct us.

Jesus promised after he ascended, he would send the Holy Spirit. And he did. It came to the disciples on that first Pentecost like rushing wind and tongues of flame … and I don’t think we have any reason to believe Jesus’ promise doesn’t hold for us today. Maybe we would explain our experience of the Holy Spirit’s activity differently than rushing wind and tongues of fire—or maybe not. Nevertheless, I’ve heard enough of your stories, I have enough of my own experiences, to recognize the telltale markings of Holy Spirit wind and fire where it is stirring.

And we do get some solid instruction from our story of this first Pentecost too. Remember who these disciples are. Fisherman, tax collectors, women, zealots and a whole bunch of ordinary folks like us. These are not Kardashians or Kennedys. They didn’t end up in the history books, for the most part, and yet they are often the ones God prefers to work in and through.

It’s these broken and faithful, baptized and fed followers who are filled with the Spirit that day. And somehow, because of that pouring out of the Spirit, people from all different tribes, nations, families and regions could understand what they were saying.

When the people heard our Galilean friends speaking and praying, when they heard them proclaiming the mighty works of God, they heard in ways they could understand.

Again, there is no reason to believe this promise of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the followers of Jesus then doesn’t hold for us today on this day of Pentecost.

And when it happens and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we also are given abilities and agency to speak, pray and proclaim the mighty acts of God in ways the people we meet can understand. Maybe that means our lives are examples of forgiveness and mercy. Maybe that means when we talk to folks, the majority of whom are not affiliated with a faith community, we stop assuming everyone knows what faith or grace is—or even who this Jesus is, truly. Maybe that reminds us that when it comes to encountering people who are very different than us, who it is not so easy to communicate with for whatever reason, the languages of love, compassion and kindness are universal.

And the second reason this monumental responsibility of filling the pages of the Second Book of Acts is not terrifying is even more compelling than that. Christ is risen! We are freed from sin and damnation and anything that attempts to speak finality over us in our Risen Christ. We are not only freed from these things though. We are also freed to other things – we are freed to worship only God. We are freed to love on another as Jesus would. In the Risen Christ, we are freed to boldly write the pages of the Second Book of Acts. Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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