If you’ve ever been part of a business start-up or even a new church plant, then you know the importance of setting boundaries and expectations. Our reading today is about one of those early meetings of church leaders to discuss issues facing the people. After all, anytime people gather, it’s a given that issues will arise.
We’re in the midst of themed readings focusing on “Living as God Desires.” To see how these early church leaders handle a very sensitive issue gives us clues to how we should act when leading groups we’re in charge of. The leaders sought God’s intentions. They had respectful discussion. When a decision had been reached, they were quick and diligent in communicating it with any and all parties who needed to hear it.
To have been in Jerusalem that day when Jesus’ promise was first fulfilled would have been glorious! Albeit a little frightening, I’m sure, for those who didn’t understand what was happening. “They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed.” As soon as the realization hit the disciples, that they were witnessing what Jesus had described to them in our last reading, they were in awe.
Peter was so moved he started preaching! He got their attention using Joel’s fulfilled prophecy to explain what was happening. Of course, he shared with everyone his own testimony of what Jesus had done and how that changed his life! Many people were moved by hearing words they had never heard before. People were encountering Jesus’ Spirit without him being visually present (except in tongues of flames)! The church was born that day!
If you’re not familiar with Saul, he’s a devout Jew but, up to this turning point, had not believed Jesus was God’s son. Saul had been doing horrific things to persecute the followers of Jesus. Saul believed he was being true to his Jewish faith.
I love how God shows up in this passage to get Saul’s attention! This becomes a life altering moment for Saul. I imagine that any time God gets our attention by speaking out loud our lives are changed.
And Happy Birthday to the Christian Church! As I publish this in 2021, it is the eve of Pentecost. The date of Pentecost moves each year because it is dependent upon it’s proximity to the Passover celebration and/or Easter, which also move around the calendar. Pentecost was a Jewish tradition long before the events of our text today. But for the Christian church, Pentecost marks the start of a movement.
The Holy Spirit came in a mighty way. Jesus had promised his followers the Holy Spirit would come. Several weeks had passed since he made that promise before Jesus ascended into the sky. I’m sure the disciples were beginning to wonder when it was going to happen. They may have even been questioning whether they were going to recognize when it happened.
Paul has arrived in Rome, just as Jesus told him he would. The journey there was a bit rocky, but he was safe. His ministry in Rome is now underway. I am always amazed at how news traveled in those days. The phone hadn’t been invented yet, and certainly, there was no email or texting. Yet believers knew and came to welcome and encourage Paul.