Yesterday we wore red to church and celebrated Pentecost, the birth of the Christian church. Luke, who wrote the Gospel of Luke, writes a second epistle, the book of Acts, that continues to tell the story of how that group of early disciples had to reorganize their whole world of faith after the shock of the crucifixion. Between Easter Sunday and Pentecost we remembered the different people who saw Jesus and saw how he was orienting his followers from seeing him in person, listening to his teaching, and observing his miracles to a bigger vision. Their understanding of God and the reality of God’s kingdom was growing.
At Pentecost we see the beginning understanding of a Triune God, one God but three expressions or persons. A mystery. The Holy Spirit is mentioned at creation, hovering over the waters, but Pentecost expands our understanding. Often the book of Acts is studied to look at how the church grew. Some even idealize it as the model we should follow. I would like to go through Acts as a “faith formation” study. I am fascinated that those early followers who understood so little, really, grew to be the fathers of the faith who changed their world and helped define ours. What lessons were they learning?
In Acts, Luke is writing to his friend Theophilus (possibly a pseudonym for theo-godly, philus– friend). The Gospel of Luke told the story of the incarnation of Christ. Acts talks about the planting of the early church and the early formulating of faith expressions. Chapter 1 offers two promises that undergirded those early followers. Jesus had promised the coming of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, and he had promised to return. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)”
Jesus predicted the baptism of the Holy Spirit to come in Jerusalem. John the Baptists had hinted at this but Jesus says it is within a few days. The followers though were still not really understanding and thought he was talking about his return. Actually we have two promises, the promise of an Advocate that gives power and the eventual return of Christ. The first promise was fulfilled in chapter 2 and we wait for Christ’s return.
So what promises undergird our faith? I battle fear of many things but interestingly, my confirmation verse given me by a pastor who knew me little was Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I am always encouraged and look forward to seeing God’s presence in a situation. What promises do you stand on? Name it and read it again with anticipation! Blessings!