The Acts of the Apostles Chapters 1-4
The Promise: For You and For All Who Are Far Off
By: The Rev. Canon Jason D. Lewis
Canon for Congregational Vitality, Diocese of Kentucky
Jesus’ story doesn’t end with Jesus. It continues onward in the lives of those who believe in him. The Acts of the Apostles tells of Jesus’ ministry as it moves forward through the shared life of the earliest “Christ-believers.”
The first four chapters of Acts are packed full of action. Jesus admonishes his students to wait for the Father’s promise. He tells them, that this promise, once received, will empower their ministry to be witnesses from Jerusalem, all over Judea, Samaria, and indeed, to the ends of the world.
On the day of Pentecost, the promised Spirit descends. The gathered community is filled with power and is enabled to share the Good News of God with all nations and peoples, as each hears the message in their own language. The division of languages at the tower of Babel, and the confusion that followed, it has been lifted, and reversed. God’s Spirit empowers the message to extend beyond all borders and boundaries. This is the Spirit of a God who seeks to embrace all – regardless of country of origin, language, nationality, or ethnicity. The Spirit gathers all into the new unfolding story of God’s redemptive purposes for the whole of creation.
As the Spirit comes down, Peter boldly stands and preaches the first Christian sermon. He proclaims that death did not have the power to hold Jesus. God has raised him up. Jesus’ life lives on in those who are filled with the once promised and now delivered Spirit. “This promise,” Peter declares, “is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away.” The message of God extends outward to those who are near and those who are far off. Indeed, this is for all people.
These beginning chapters of Acts reveal a God who is ever widening the circle of who is embraced and brought into the beloved community. The Spirit is being poured out and is calling Jesus-followers to move outward to share God’s life with all people and all nations.
As Christians, our message and work is not about us – it is about God’s embrace and love for all people. Jesus’ story doesn’t end with Jesus. It continues onward as we welcome the stranger. Jesus’ ministry of welcome extends through us as we intentionally take an active role in welcoming immigrants and refugees in our midst. Radical welcome. That is what the Spirit is up to in the Acts of the Apostles. And this is to be the character of the welcome that we called to offer with our very lives.
Let us pray.
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the
earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those
who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people
everywhere may seek after you and find you, bring the nations
into your fold, pour out your Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten
the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and for ever. Amen. (BCP, 257)