November 20, 2007 – Acts of the Apostles – The Story of the Holy SpiritWe are studying the book of Acts this year in my scripture study circle. This makes me smile because as always in my relationship with God I continue to stand in awe of how he sends me just what I need when I need it. Some Eastern philosopher (sorry that I do not know who) said: When the student is ready, the teacher appears. This is the theme of my pilgrimage back to God; and I see this theme also in Acts: the Apostles have arrived at a place where they understand that God has a plan and that they have a part to play as reapers of God’s word in that they are to daily die to self, to witness, to become martyrs – whether physically by giving up their very life, emotionally by giving their wants over to God to sort and prioritize, or spiritually by giving up self to allow God to enter and act through them. This is the story of transformation of self. It is the story of how we rise from our humanity to become divine. It is a story without parallel.
Peter is transformed from a rough fisherman – who denied he knew the Christ – into an eloquent and bold foundation for the church of which we are a part. Paul is transformed from a murderous prosecutor of Christ and his followers into the very voice and feet and hands of Christ’s church. The fledgling church itself is transformed from a minor unnoticed Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem into a world-wide body which brings the divine message of salvation to all humans. The presence of God among these people in the form of the Holy Spirit shows us – if we read closely – that God does not intend to manipulate his creatures like puppets. We see these first apostles and disciples reading the signposts just as we do today. We see them stumble as they try to discern God’s will and we see God save them through miraculous action when they find themselves in a place that prohibits the forwarding of God’s plan. We see coming to fruition all of the stories in all of the sacred books which lead to this spot.
We see recurring actions which not only entertain but instruct.
- The apostles remember the things that Jesus told them about this new kingdom and work together to remain true to the mission Jesus has left in their hands.
- The apostles are imprisoned and an angel and acts of nature free them.
- The apostles make speeches before different tribunals and gatherings, not worrying about preparing a speech but allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through them.
- The apostles are able to perform healing miracles to their amazement and to the amazement of others.
- The apostles challenge the corrupt structures of authority which they see around them.
- The apostles also challenge the superstitious beliefs and practices of magic of the gentile nations.
- The apostles are constantly journeying – always called by the voice of the Spirit.
- The apostles experience periods of harmony and periods of discord in their growing community.
- The apostles find comfort first in their own primary community and then fan out across the known world to carry the message of Jesus, the loving message, the Word of the One True God who is creator of all.
- The apostles are always accompanied by the Holy Spirit.
We read this list and think about what it must have been like to live at such a time, to have been an intimate friend of Jesus and to have lived so closely with him that we can never be the same after having known him. And then we realize that we are modern apostles, we realize that we can read the list above and see that every single bullet outlined also applies to our lives today – 2 millennia after the man Jesus lived and died among us.
What a wonderful story. What a wonderful God. What a wonderful life we are called to live.