Tag Archives: Acts

Who Moved That?

One of several tornadoes observed by the VORTE...
One of several tornadoes observed by the VORTEX-99 team on May 3, 1999, in central Oklahoma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nightly images of homes torn apart with memories strew across farmlands and neighborhoods tell us that tornado season has begun. These monstrous tails that descend skies that had only a few minutes before had been clear, amaze us with their power and unpredictability.

The second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles begins with the sound of a violent wind that filled the whole house where the disciples had sat. Within a few verses these devout men had been driven from their seats and out into the marketplace, alarmed and amazed by the power and unpredictability of the Holy Spirit.

While Luke described the Holy Spirit as power and fire, John described it as a counselor, one who comes alongside in difficult times, an advocate. This is how I most frequently experience the Holy Spirit; a serendipitous nudge to action with just the right word at just the right time.

But while a tornado rips and tears things apart, scattering homes and memories across miles, the Holy Spirit pushes us together, binding us into one body, the Church. So that together we might accomplish great tasks, together we might build the body of Christ.

Transitions

“What are you running to?” a colleague had asked me. We had been discussing the reasons for leaving an employer that was downsizing paralleling the downsizing of the military industrial complex after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His question stopped me and made me think through where I was going to even more than where I was going from. That question, and other incentives led me to go to seminary and pursue a career as a pastor.

During subsequent changes in employment I have noticed that each transition involves a push and a pull. A reason to leave and a reason to arrive somewhere else. While pushes, reasons to leave, have initiated and sustained transitions, pulls, reasons to start somewhere else make the transitions worthwhile to complete.

While career changes had taught me to recognize the push and pull of transitions, force analyses also apply to organizational changes.

Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) illustrates a divine push to change from his old life. Yet it was the ministry of a former foe, Ananias who helped Paul recognize the pull to a new life in Christ.

What forces started and sustained a recent transition for you?

Ministry as Sales

As a pastor I do not have to worry about how prayers will be answered. I am confident that Jesus can manage the production process without my input. Similarly I do not have to fret about who will answer prayers. I am confident that the Holy Spirit will coordinate personnel connecting those who can best advance the Kingdom of heaven. And best all I am confident that God the Father will manage the heavenly host bring everything together at exactly the right moment.

My part in ministry is sales, telling people about the greatest product in the universe: forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting!

This week I put my pastoral skills into material sales, selling coupon books to raise funds for a mission project that our congregation supports. In two hours I learned much about ministry as sales. In this practical experience, we had a great product, for a mere $5 the coupon book contained a $10 coupon, an instant 100% profit, plus several other savings opportunities.

Let Some People Go

As much as I might like to talk with everyone who walked past the door where I stood, some people were too wrapped up in their own thoughts to even acknowledge that I had said good afternoon. Their eyes remained focused beyond where I stood. At most they would acknowledge me with a wave of a hand, gesturing for me to stand aside.

I’ve been in those shoes; rushing to accomplish a few errands between appointments. If anyone had even slowed me down, I would have been furthered biased against whatever they might have said.

Someone else might be able to reach those people at a different time with a different approach more suitable to their personality. Let them go.

Make Eye Contact

Before beginning my spiel, as the next person approached, I would look them in the eye and smile. When I could get to the door, I would open it for them.

The written word can communicate much information to many through Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and newsletters, but personal contact conveys more than words. Increasingly I hear that in the not too distant future a few super preachers will present all sermons. These specially gifted and talented individuals will have time and resources to present exceptional media savvy sermons. But I have learned that preaching is best received as a performance art in close communication between the preacher and the congregation. When I preach I watch for changes in body language —arms crossed, smiling, nodding, frowns— and adjust my presentation as I speak.

Making eye contact gave me a few more seconds to deliver the message about what I wanted to sell.

Walk with People

As people walked past where I stood, I did not expect them to instantly stop and listen to me, instead I walked beside them while I told them about the coupon books we were selling.

Walking with people is the essence of ministry. I would like people to believe that I have seen every problem and have all the answers, but I too walk  the path of life, struggling with my faith and its intersection with life. My hope is that I will have something to teach from my experiences and that I will learn from the experiences of those I walk alongside.

Walking with people showed them that I was interested in them and opened a possibility for them to be interested in me and what I had to say.

Know Your Product

The first few times I tried to pitch the coupon books I stumbled over my words and could not find the page with the $10 coupon. My first few attempts were unsuccessful.

Every now and then I look at an old sermon (fortunately I have none on tape) and thank the congregations who listened to me and said they appreciated me. Practice has improved my preaching. Reading a few lines of Scripture everyday continues to improve my familiarity with God’s salvation and presence in life.

Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture,
he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.
—Acts 8:35 (NRSV)

April 14th: “Interruption”

When has God interrupted your life for Christ’s mission?

This Week’s Passage: Acts 9:1-6 (7-20)

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Third Sunday of Easter (Year C)

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1 – – Saul “breathed threats and murder against the disciples” since the stoning of Stephen.
Violence begets violence.

2 – – Has force ever been effective quelling belief?

3 – – How might some one from the first century react to Strobe lights? A Disco ball? The Dazzler?

4 – – In Saul’s time Christianity was a fringe sect of Judaism. The persecution he represented deepened that split. Today, in America, the biggest threat to the church comes from within, zealots who would persecute those on the fringe. How might God be transforming Christianity today?

5 – – Would we bow to the unknown when zapped out of our normal routine?

6 – – Saul who would have bound and led Christians, is now led. When has Christ redirected our lives?

7 – 8 – Saul’s support group hears the voice and effect Christ’s direction by leading him to the city where he would be told what to do.

9 – – “Without sight” might be a metaphor for without knowledge.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Requires a preface about Paul’s participation in stoning Stephen.
  • The lectionary suggests stopping at v. 6.
  • Continuing to verse 9 shows how Paul’s support group participated in God’s plan.
  • Since few of us have suddenly been struck blind and many might relate to having been called to do something perceived as odious, we might better relate to Ananias. Hence the optional continuation to verse 20. Initially both Ananias and Paul have turned a blind eye to God working in the other. Through faith, each trusts and each sees. Can the hearer also open an eye to small things having a major impact? Ananias laid hands on a foe and the faith of billions awoke.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

Acts 22:4-16 – Paul admits to having persecuted the Way, having bound and imprisoned men and women. The light shone (not flashed). His companions saw the light, but did not hear the voice, yet led him to Damascus. Ananias restored his sight and baptized. Later while praying he received direction to go to the Gentiles.

Acts 26:9-18 – Admits to casting votes for believers’ executions and provoking blasphemy. Bright light shone at noon and voice spoke in Hebrew. Voice tells Paul of his appointment to serve and testify so that Hebrews and Gentiles would turn from Satan, receive forgiveness, and a place among the sanctified. (No mention of Ananias.)

Galatians 1:13-17 – “Violently persecuted the church.” No mention of Damascus Road episode. Denied conferring with Ananias nor apostles at Jerusalem.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

Saul is flipped from seeking to bind and lead to being led blind.

Christ appreciates Paul’s zeal but laments his direction.

Saul’s traveling companions serve as props.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of gravity: Christ flipped Saul from persecuting the church into its greatest evangelist.
  • Emotional Center: A bolt out of the blue.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • God chose to convert a violent persecutor rather than a committed follower. Are committed followers too meek to change the world?

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • This episode would be unbelievable, except that others have also had dramatic life-changing reversals.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Robert W. Wall (“The Acts of the Apostles”, The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 2002.) comments that God did not seek to frighten Saul into obedience, but to reveal a plan of action, a plan that Saul was conditioned to receive, hence the ironic use of “Lord.” He also notes the parallel between Saul’s three days of blindness before his conversion with Jesus’ three days in the tomb prior to the resurrection. Wall reflects that Saul was converted to Jesus without repudiating his Jewish heritage.

William H. Willimon (Interpretation: Acts. JKP, 1988.) opines that Saul’s conversion dose not interrupt the story of Phillip, but fits within a series of conversion stories.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher),

What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

God can and does interrupt our lives to further his kingdom.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Ask: What mission does God have for me?

April 7th: “Obeying God”

When should our testimony of faith become civil disobedience?

This Week’s Passage: Acts 5:27-32

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year C for 2nd Sunday in Easter

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

27 – – Either expand the pericope or explain what has happened prior to the apostles return.

28 – – How does today’s culture limit our freedom to preach Christ and him crucified?

29 – – Choosing to obey God over human authorities will still get one arrested if not hospitalized for insanity.

30-33 – Peter summarized Christian faith and riled these religious leaders to violence.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • This episode begins in verse 17. The Chief Priest and his friends order the apostles arrested because they were jealous of healings that the apostles were performing. An angel released them and sent them back to the temple to preach. When the high priests discover the apostles missing they are arrested a second time.
  • The episode continues through verse 42. After Rabbi Gamaliel counsels patience, the apostles are whipped and warned. The episode concludes with the apostles teaching in the temple every day.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

  • Some variants render verse 28 as a statement, others as a question. A question would be consistent with the circumstance.

II. Literary Study.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

“Hanging him on a tree” a euphemism for crucifixion that parallels usage in Deuteronomy.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

Rendered as a news report to give it credibility.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

Peter and the apostles have decided to imitate Jesus and preach and to heal ignoring warnings of the consequences.

The priests are irate over being displaced from the focus of teaching and by Peter’s disregard of their theology.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Preach at all costs, means even risking life itself.
  • Emotional Center: Obey God not men.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • The apostles and high council talk past each other, ignoring legitimate points the other might offer, blinded by their own ideologies.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • We would like to believe that our society does not oppose God’s direction.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Robert W. Wall (“The Acts of the Apostles”, The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 2002.) calls Acts 5:17-42 “Story Three: The Apostles vs. the Sanhedrin, Round Two.” He notes similarities with and expansions from the apostles’ previous arrest and trial for healing a man lame from birth (Acts 3:1 – 4:31). The earlier story resulted in warning, which the apostles ignored yielding this episode. He discerns the introduction of an angel, who facilitated Peter’s escape, and Gamaliel’s speech as the significant additions in this episode over the earlier episode. He also notes that the police fear being stoned by the people, demonstrating the apostle’s popular support over the council. He interprets the Chief Priest’s concern as political rather than theological. While Peter responded theologically, he defined the crucifixion as a lynching ordered by the council before whom he now stood and attributed their ability to understand as due to a lack of the Holy Spirit. Wall reflects that Peter’s speech “is Scripture’s leading justification for civil disobedience,” with the qualification that civil disobedience serves a missionary rather than political end, and is not a protest but a witness.

William H. Willimon (Interpretation: Acts. John Knox Press, 1988.) includes this episode within a section extending from 4:32 through 6:7 that deals with more mundane topics, particularly money. He opines: “The most eloquent testimony to the reality of the resurrection is not an empty tomb or a well-orchestrated pageant on Easter Sunday but rather a group of people whose life together is so radically different, so completely changed from the way the world builds community, that there can be no explanation other than that something decisive has happened in history.” The difficulty comes not from explaining how the resurrection happened, but because the church does not look more resurrected.
With regard to this passage, he perceives the ire of those on the high council, people who strove every day to live obediently to the will of God, on hearing Peter say: “We must obey God rather than men.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

This act of the apostles demonstrates how we might engage civil authorities as a resurrected people.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Obey God rather than men.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

To consider what we might accomplish as resurrected people, boldly obeying God.

March 31st: “Anyone?”

After being surprised by the scope of God’s mercy, Peter recaps the story of Christ’s death and resurrection.

This Week’s Passage: Acts 10:34-43

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year C for Resurrection Sunday in Easter

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

34 Peter had thought that only Jews could be baptized, but now has come to understand that God’s circle is wider than his. Whom do we seek to exclude from God’s circle?

35 Salvation by works?

36 The “message” is not Jesus Christ, but is sent through him.

37 The expansion of the Gospel starting in Galilee: John’s baptism was one of repentance for the Kingdom of God is near.

38 a. God anointing Jesus with the Holy Spirit is a matter of faith.

b. “oppressed by the devil” — Is Peter preaching in the vernacular which expects a battle between good and evil?

c. “God was with him” — Why not he was God as in John’s Gospel?

39 Why not say nailed him to a tree? Or is this a euphemism for crucifixion as well as picking up the scriptural admonition against hanging on a tree?

40 God “caused him to appear”.

41 Proof that he was risen bodily, at least among the believers.

42 Jesus is ordained as judge by God. Peter appears to be testifying that Jesus is a prophet rather than the Son of God.

43 Consistency with earlier Scripture.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Peter has been sent for by Corneilus, a Gentile. Corneilus has seen a vision while in prayer that he should see Peter, and Peter has seen a vision that it is God who decides who is clean.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

1 Corinthians 14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.

Jews shunned eating with Gentiles (offered to idols); even visiting a Gentile household would cause spiritual uncleanness.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

Passage begins with Peter opening his mouth and ends with people speaking in tongues.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

Chapter 10 is a well structured story: Begins with a centurion, an outsider of the community, whose worship was answered through an angel. Paralleled with Peter praying and receiving a vision. The vision is explained through the acceptance of Cornelius by the Holy Spirit.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

In the larger story Cornelius does not question why he invites Peter or what he expects when Peter begins to speak. Thus they are much like a congregation sitting waiting for the preacher to speak. In the end the congregation becomes the object lesson for the preacher and his associates.

Peter is like the preacher who visits the hospital on the request of family, and experiences a miracle!

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: This is the kernel of a much larger passage about the wideness of God’s desire for salvation. It matters not who we think should/will be saved (by God), but rather that we need to be about confirming with baptism whom God has already chosen.
  • Emotional Center: God breaking forth in our midst!

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Peter associates with Gentiles setting up the conflict in chapter 11 about future ministry with the Gentiles.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

William H. Willimon (Interpretation: Acts) notes two errors in his sermon to Cornelius: 1) that “anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God” is otherwise unsupported in Scripture; and 2) that Jesus was sent to Israel does not support ministry with Gentiles.

Robert W. Wall (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Acts of the Apostles”) notes the parallel with the story of Jonah, the prophet also sent from Joppa to preach to people he was reluctant to meet. Jonah needed three days in the belly of the great fish before he would preach to the Ninevites. Peter (aka Simon bar Jonah) took three auditions from God. Jonah’s preaching resulted in the repentance of the Ninevites. Peter’s preaching resulted in the conversion of all of Cornelius’s household and his friends.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

You know the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. Everyone who trusts him, receives forgiveness.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Experience Peter’s surprise with God’s mercy.

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October 7th: “Committed to Christ”

This Week’s Passage:

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Acts 26:19-29

C. Other texts for Committed to Christ: Introductory Week

  • Joshua 24:14-18

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

19-20 – Paul opted to affirm the direction he received through his vision on the Damascus Road to urge repentance over the charter he had received to arrest Christians.

21 – – Religious zealotry is not new!

22 – – Paul attributes the failure of his accusers to God using him to testify to people he might not otherwise meet.

23 – – The kernel of Paul’s Christology: Resurrection validates Christ’s message to Jews and Gentiles.

24 – – A warning to academics to maintain rhetorical connections with those less studied.

25-27 – Paul asserts the validity of his Christology as based on the prophets and commonly seen events.

28 – – Agrippa recognizes both the validity of Paul’s assertions and the risk of accepting them.

29 – – Would we as willingly put our prayers into words so that all who listen to us might be such as we are?

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • The account of Paul’s arrest and trial begins in chapter 21 and with several continuations and changes in venue. Luke presents this trial as the means by which God places Paul in Rome.
  • King Agrippa has agreed with Festus to hear Paul so Festus might write some charges so that Paul might be tried by the Emperor in Rome. In verses 26:1-18 Paul recounts his qualifications as a Pharisee and his conversion experience.
  • Agrippa concludes that Paul could have been set free, had he not appealed to the Emperor, hence he is sent to Rome.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • Written by “Luke” probably alongside or shortly after the composition of the Gospel in the AD 80’s. The author states that these two books were written to capture

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • A dialog by Paul before Festus and King Agrippa. The style shows God working through ordinary events.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

Paul argued that he was unjustly arrested and held for his faith that the evidence supported as true, but was not politically correct.

Festus understood that Paul could not be charged with any crime, but when Paul appealed to the Emperor, Festus could pass the onus of the decision beyond his jurisdiction, placating his subjects.

King Agrippa found Paul of interest but understood the legal and political dilemma.

God is portrayed as the architect of this scene, providing Paul an audience with powerful leaders and means to travel to Rome.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

“Light”: Luke used light ten times in Acts to indicate the power and presence of God. In 26:18 Paul explained what he meant by “proclaim light” (26:23) as forgiveness of sins and sanctification.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Are you persuading me to become a Christian?
  • Emotional Center: “become such as I, except for these chains.”
  • Music: “I Love to Tell the Story”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Paul is caught between the truth and what would be politically acceptable. In this scene Paul wore physical chains perhaps symbolizing being bound to God’s mission that would send him to Rome.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • What lasting impact, if any, did Paul’s presentation have on Agrippa and Bernice?
  • Leaving this blank keeps the focus on Christ and highlights that we often do not understand how God might use our testimony.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • If Christianity was a crime, could you be convicted for your beliefs? Paul used the occasion of his arrest to testify about the risen Christ and urge the King’s conversion.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Robert W. Wall (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Acts of the Apostles”. Abingdon, 2002.) notes that while the form of Paul’s speech is forensic, the purpose is “to define his prophetic vocation as the personification of the very messianic movement he now represents.” He offers that Paul’s dialog with Agrippa contained humor, connoting that Agrippa was unconvinced. He opines that current hearers of this episode might agree with Festus, for Paul’s argument lacked empirical data.

William H. Willimon (Interpretation: Acts. JKP, 1988) contrasts Paul’s account of his conversion before Agrippa with the stereotypical modern conversion testimony: Paul did not find Jesus, instead Jesus found him; By accepting Jesus, Paul did not move from miserable to fulfilled, but had his method of serving God corrected and then was recommissioned; Paul goes from being a free and highly esteemed Roman citizen to one who was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and chained. Thus his testimony is not what Christ did for him in his life, but that Christ rose from the dead and preached light for Jews and Gentiles. He concludes that Paul’s death goes unreported because the death and resurrection of Christ out shone everything that Paul did.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

God orders our lives to point to the living Christ.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Testify about Christ and God will use us for his kingdom.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Pray to be like Paul, bound to promot the light of Christ among us.

May 27th: “A People on Fire”

Contrast the wind of Pentecost with a tornado, both shake the world off its pedestal, but the Holy Spirit breathes life into those who inhale it, so together Church builds the kingdom of God.
Question for Discussion: How has the Spirit been poured into your life for the building of the Kingdom of God?

This Week’s Passage: Acts 2:1-21

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Pentecost

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1 Recall that Pentecost was a harvest feast. Is Luke making a parallel between the harvest of grain and the harvest of believers?

1 “They were all together:” who? Acts1:14-15,26: The eleven, Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers, Matthias about 120.

2 Sound [white noise?] only? No movement? “Fills the whole house” and later fills the whole house with people.

3 How do we manifest “tongues of fire” today? What kind of lamps do we burn in the sight of the communities we live in?

4 Whether this is glossolalia or xenolalia, is not important. What is important is that the Holy Spirit enabled them.

5 These Jews were thus prepared for the receiving of God’s Word. Contrast with Gen 11:3 who are listening for their own word.

6 Which sound brought the people together, the white noise or the xenolalia?

6&8 This passage puts the gift of comprehension in the hearer. Consider communication theory: Communication is affected and effected by the transmitter, the medium, and the receiver. Violent wind noises normally disrupt communication. Differences in language normally disrupt communication. Differences in culture normally disrupt communication.

7 Look at who the speakers are. They are not scribes who had studied other languages, but laborers.

9 Some of the nations cited no longer existed even at this time, however ethnic roots die slowly.

13 What excuse would be given today to ignore God at work among us?

14 The circle of potential converts begins to expand: Jews and Jerusalemites. How might we expand our circle of converts?

15 Were there not men in those days who were drunk every day?

16 The occasion for Joel 2:28 ff. was the impending judgment in the day of the LORD (Joel 2:1-11). The crucifixion of Christ fulfills the judgment of the Lord.

17a The whole communication process is under the auspices of the Holy Spirit working in opposition of normal communications theory.

18 Even the clergy will receive the Spirit!

19-21 Proto-apocalyptic literature.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Omits most of Peter’s remarks and the reaction of those present to those remarks.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

3 “tongues being divided as fire.” Usually read as “tongues of fire that are divided” but could this also be read as “tongues divided like a fire divides.” Many pictures show the apostles with individual flames on their heads, but could this describe something fleshy like a tongue that divides and rests on them like the flames of a fire divide?

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

Apostles: Assuming Peter’s speech is indicative of the apostles’ reactions, they were well prepared for what was happening to them. The 50 days of prayer and waiting, seeing of the risen Jesus. When the Spirit came in power they were ready to preach.

Crowd: Although the Crown is said to contain devout Jews, they are not ready for what is happening around them and thus are perplexed by it. Thus rather than recognize the action of God, in the hearing of speech in their own language, they deride it as falsities.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

Countries listed generally from east to west crossing the Mediterranean twice then jumping back east through Crete to Arabia. Is this equivalent to a round the world tour?

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • CoG: The Spirit enables communication of the Good News to new people.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • The reality experienced by the disciples conflicted with the expectations of the crowd.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • From The Presbyterian Outlook “In this Corner by Marj” September 6, 1999: The town fire chief recently became a new member of the Presbyterian Church. When being question by the session, he told them he did have one concern. “I read in the Bible,” he said, “and I’ve always worried about Pentecost. Those flaming tongues jumping around just aren’t safe.” [Of course he’s right. It isn’t safe letting the Holy Spirit jump around like that, inflaming hearts and souls. It could cause genuine change in the church.]
  • Contrast the wind of Pentecost with a tornado, both shake the world off its pedestal, but the Holy Spirit breathes life into those who inhale it, so together Church builds the kingdom of God.
  • How has the Spirit been poured into your life for the building of the Kingdom of God?

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

William Willimon (Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Acts: JKP). He cites Ps 127:1 – “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” [This is the difference between Gen 11 (Tower of Babel) and Acts 2.] He suggests a parallel with the birth narrative of Jesus and an allusion to Gen 1:2 (The breath of God moved over the face of the waters at the creation.). He asserts that Pentecost has not reversed Babel: the community scattered there has not been restored. The story does not claim that there is only one tongue now, nor is there a claim of a miracle of hearing, instead of speaking. “The miracle here is one of proclamation. Those who had no “tongue” to speak the “mighty works of God” now preach.” “To those in the church today who regard the Spirit as an exotic phenomenon of mainly interior and purely personal significance, the story of the Spirit’s descent at Pentecost offers a rebuke. … The Spirit is the power which enables the church to “go public” with its good news, to attract a crowd and … to have something worth hearing.”

Robert W. Wall (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Acts of the Apostles” Abingdon, 2002) notes parallels with the giving of the Torah at Sinai, which also occurred fifty days after the Passover, and hence gathering in Jerusalem to celebrate. While the Torah unified Israel, so to does the Spirit unify Christians. He notes Pentecost is a recurring event in Acts: 8:17; 10-44-11:18, and 19:1-6.

April 15th: “One Heart and Soul”

The world and everything in are God’s. As stewards of divine creation we are responsible for all our neighbors.

This Week’s Passage: Luke 4:32-37

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for 2ndSunday in Easter

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

32a Of one heart and soul, allows for conflicting opinions while seeking to serve the Lord in all things.

32b If we consider everything in all creation to be on loan to us from God, would this not follow?

33 Like the Apostles, preachers today have been entrusted with the greatest gift: forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life ever-lasting. How could this not be shared powerfully?

34 This defines needs only in material goods, but we also need opportunities to be useful.

35 Why did they have to sell the items before giving them?

36-37 Could the community have used Joseph’s field to grow grain and teach others to grow grain?

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Preceded by the believers praying together and receiving the Holy Spirit. Thus this communal life exemplifies the power or the Spirit to overcome individual pride.
  • Lops off an example of selling a field and presenting it to the apostles. And the counter example of Ananias and Sapphira selling and pretending to give all but withholding part.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • Written by Luke to document the spreading of the church. Thus this and the following passage demonstrate that the church did not unfold consistently.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • This is a third person news account without dialogue.
  • Common ownership surrounds the preaching of apostles. Thus this behavior is an outward sign of the affect of the preaching and the presence of the Holy Spirit among the believers.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: The world and everything in are God’s. As stewards of divine creation we are responsible for all our neighbors.
  • Emotional Center: Common ownership embodied the preaching of the apostles.
  • Music: “One Bread, One Body”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Conflict follows this passage when individual security attempts to subvert trusting the community to care for everyone.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • The community must have kept some property for communal use; e.g. the house where they were staying. How did the community share spiritual gifts and secular talents?
  • Omitting these keeps the focus on the power of trusting the Holy Spirit, rather than on how to implement a commune.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Is the Bible really advocating socialism/communism? The exegete must differentiate voluntary participation in communal life from mandated sharing.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

James J.H. Price (The Presbyterian Outlook, January 6-13, 1997, “Barnabas”.) concludes that the example of Barnabas giving the proceeds from the sale of a field is an unusual, rather than an expected, regular practice of all members of the community.

Robert W. Wall (The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 2002. “The Acts of the Apostles”) continues this pericope through the 5:16; incorporating both the episode with Ananias and Sapphira and the people bringing the sick so that Peter’s shadow might fall on them and be cured. He concludes this interlude in Luke’s description of the spread of the church was an example of what the church should look like in every age. He deduces from Barnabas being a Levite, a tribe dedicated to spiritual rather than physical stewardship, that this instance of communal trust marks the return toward the order God had intended. “The value we place on individual ownership, not only on what we purchase but the motives for acquiring particular brands or models, is an expression of our inmost and utmost loyalties.”

William H. Willimon (Interpretation: Acts. JKP, 1988.) continues this passage through the episode with Ananias and Sapphira (5:11). He notes that for Luke, money is not a sign of God’s favor, but a danger. “If money is somehow linked with our idolatrous attempts to secure immortality for ourselves, it is also the occasion for much self-deceit.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

  • The world and everything in are God’s. As stewards of divine creation we are responsible for all our neighbors.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

  • Submitting to the Holy Spirit’s power enables individuals to trust a community over individual fears.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

  • Great grace works miracles in word and deed.

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper in Easter 2012

Bread and cup“Teach the congregation about the depth of meaning in the Lord’s Supper, not just with words, but also with how we celebrate Communion,” the Elders on Session challenged. In addition to serving communion every Sunday in Easter, they wanted more. Thus we are now scheduled serve communion eleven times in ten weeks (including Maundy Thursday and the first Sundays of April and June).

Worship Plans for Easter 2012

These worship plans are tentative and subject to revision. Suggestions will be carefully considered.

Date

Theme

Implementation

April 1
Passion Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-9a – Christ: God’s Forgiveness
Remembrance of God’s grace, Christ’s sacrifice, and work of the Spirit.
Communion as Atonement
Small cups & wafers served to participants in pews
Christ’s Body given & Blood shed for us.
April 5
Maundy Thursday
Sin as slavery; Orderly plan of freedom.
Institution of the Lord’s Supper
Passover Meal: Unleavened bread, wine
April 8
Resurrection
Mark 16:1-8 – You are looking for Jesus
Gift of God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit
High formality. Sung responses.
Child delivers elements gift wrapped.
Participants come forward to receive bread and small cups.
April 15
Easter 2
Acts 4:32-35 – Everything in Common
Reconciling community
Sit in a circle, minister to one another.
Intinction with one loaf
April 22
Easter 3
Youth Group skit
The resurrection has implications today.
Youth serve with modernized setting: Bread sticks in a pizza box, Grape Kool-Aid in plastic cups
April 29
Easter 4
John 10:11-18 – Good Shepherd
Eucharist is our great sacrifice of praise to God.
Each family presents a slice of bread during the offering. Those slices are shared during communion.
May 6
Easter 5
John 15:1-8 – On Christ’s Vine
Incorporation
One loaf divided and shared with cups in pews. Elder and Deacons immediately leave worship to offer communion to those unable to attend.
May 13
Easter 6
John 15:9-17 – Love one another
Spirit filled symbol of God’s Love
Women of the Church
Heart shaped pieces of bread
May 20
Easter 7
John 17:6-19 – Christ glorified in disciples
Sanctification
Wedding Feast: Invitations sent with a “robe”
Wedding runner & Unity Candle
Table filled with food: Fish, milk, wine, honey, salt, …, braided bread.
May 27
Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21 – God pours out the Holy Spirit
Confirmation
Give all members a red stole
Confirmands get white stoles
Give red stoles after confirmation
June 3
Trinity Sunday
John 3:1-17 – Born of water and spirit.
Rebirth
Flour and oil dedicated as a sin offering after assurance of pardon. Children shape flour into pastry and bake it during sermon to be served for communion.

Other Notes:

  1. Commend using the unison prayer after communion as a prayer before meals.
  2. Add explanatory notices in bulletin beginning in Lent, March Newsletter, and email March 21 – May 23.
  3. Families invited to bring bread for one of Sunday.