On Wednesday night, for the first time in a while, our community group cracked open a Bible and read Scriptures together. Seasonally we had been spending some time on different aspects of formation and caring within our community – trying to share more and create a space for openness and honesty and, from that space, spending more time praying together.
We also always start off with a meal, and sometimes time can slip away when fifteen people are crowded around a dining room table laughing and sharing life together. I’m glad we spent as much time as we do eating together and embracing the normal patterns and rhythms of life (eating, socializing, laughing, etc.). It’s a good weekly reminder that in the everydayness of life there can be a sustaining spirituality.
But, it’s pretty easy to get stuck in the “everyday spirituality,” and we want to make sure that we’re grounding ourselves in something that’s not fleeting, so we spend time reading Scriptures that have been the church’s book for a few thousand years (and, much of it, the people of God’s book for many more thousands of years). This next season we’re going to be wading through the Book of Acts and opening ourselves up to hearing God’s voice speaking and God’s spirit prompting us to respond and change and grow and bear fruit.
So we read Acts 1:1-14 together on Wednesday. We read it twice out loud, with two different voices. One time we just listened, the second time folks read along. We talked a bit about how the act of reading audibly and communally (and especially a book that seems as odd and foreign as the Bible) feels a bit odd at times. But I think it’s an important practice, even if it’s weird, that moves us out of the norm of everyday life.
Acts 1 is a pivotal moment – a hinge for the church. It seems weird that Jesus is resurrected from death (his first departure) only to leave again (his second departure, recorded in Acts 1). And he only spends 40 days post-resurrection “teaching on the kingdom.” Why not longer? Why only 40 days? Why leave when you have a perfectly good resurrected body? Why leave when there’s surely so much more you can teach and share?
But he leaves, and he tells his followers to wait.
- Wait, because in a few days, this will make sense.
- Wait, because in a few days you’ll experience the spirit of God, which Jesus describes as the father’s gift (1:4), the new baptism (1:5), and the power for witness (1:8).
- Wait, because once you’ve received this gift, you’ll understand why this chapter of the story has to end.
- Wait, because you wouldn’t believe it if I told you now what’s going to happen next.
So they wait. Acts 1:14 says “they all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” They wait and pray.
The church doesn’t have to live in an Acts 1 reality, but many of us do live in an Acts 1 reality. We’re content with the nominally or culturally different life we lead, or we’re confused or frightened or unsure of what it means to live in the power of the spirit.
For those of us in that space – the Acts 1 space – Jesus speaks to us through the Scriptures, calling us to “wait and pray” because there’s a new reality coming that will change your life and, if you’re open to it, can change the world.