There are a lot of pages that need to turn – things that need to change, in our society, in our churches, in all our current contexts. It is pretty evident that God is doing some new things, and we need to look out.
Today begins our journey with the Book of Acts for a while. It is one of my favorite New Testament books, not only because of the subject matter, but the craftiness and artistry of the writer Luke, arguably one of the most gifted writers of the New Testament.
This book is a continuation of Luke’s gospel, and it is where Luke’s themes are fully developed. Among them – the fulfillment of God’s promises in the ministry of Jesus and the life of the church. We see it in today’s reading. Luke wastes no time letting us know the absolute reliability of God’s word.
Remember how the gospel of Luke began? The annunciation to Mary by the Holy Spirit is mirrored with the mission of the church: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem….”
Remember how the gospel of Luke ends? While Luke began with a couple humble women following the Holy Spirit, now the room with the disciples is also filled with “certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus.” Women are a testament to the Spirit of God breaking forth, because they take a more prominent role than ever seen in Israel’s history.
Luke also looks beyond. In Acts, the Spirit of God is on the loose, spreading. There are phrases like “to the ends of the earth” and the inclusion of women all over!
It is unfortunate that women leadership was a challenge to Graeco-Roman culture, and within a couple centuries it was nearly snuffed out, with women taking more of a backseat with regard to the proclamation of scripture. It is evident in the Bible this was not the case. They were helping make the decisions, and running churches.
I love Acts! Here the work of the Holy Spirit takes center stage. “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” It is a book that, in a sense, does not end. We are among the Acts of the Apostles, the echoes of their greatness, and the continuation of their work. Every time I read this marvelous book I want to jump up and say, “Was that an echo of something that Jesus did, or a precursor to what I just did?
This opening text today may not seem all that dramatic, with Jesus ascending, and Matthias chosen to replace Judas. It bridges the past and present; it turns the page; it announces it is time for a change; and it invites me to see myself in the continuum of saints, as part of the change.