Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1.1-11; Psalm 46; Ephesians 1.17-23; Matthew 28.16-20

“You will receive power” and “You will be my witnesses.”  In a sense these two assertions summarise the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and, dare we say it, the subsequent history of the Church.

God knows we need power.  Our impotence is manifest constantly and to everyone.  God’s power may well have been at work in Christ, but a dispassionate analysis reveals how it is dissipated, frittered away, in our own lives.  

Yet the promise remains, and remains true.  “You are not lacking in any gifts”
[I Corinthians 1.7] St Paul declared to the fractious and confused Corinthian church.  The Christ who filled those who met him with stupefied wonder [Mark 4.41; 7.37] is present with us, alongside us, yes, but present within us.  His Spirit has been bequeathed to us.  And through that Spirit we witness to his triumph over Satan and sin and death in works surpassing even those he performed while he lived on earth among us. [John 14.12]  

Wednesday of the Week of Easter 6

Acts 17.15,22—18.1; Psalm 148; John 16.12-15

“What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?” asked Tertullian, the second-century Bishop of Carthage.  His contention was that spirituality is entirely separate from the material world.  He argued that Christians could not participate in the military, in politics, or in commerce.

Paul arrived alone in Athens, the city of philosophy. For Paul, though, “His whole soul was revolted at the sight of a city given over to idolatry” and in the marketplace he debated with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.

Paul’s argument was that the material world and the spiritual world are not separate but joined. The eternal Creator of the world and everything in it had raised Jesus from the dead.  The material world exists within the spiritual world, not aside from it.  Paul’s argument won no adherents that day; his speech was greeted with derision.  Many people, Christians included, prefer still to live in one compartment or the other.  But we are called to love God and to love the world he made, to work and to pray for the cities in which we live
[Jeremiah 29.7] as well as for the City to which we aspire. [Psalm 122.6]

Tuesday of the Week of Easter 6

Acts 16.22-34; Psalm 137; John 16.5-11

The Book of Acts divides into two halves, the first half centred on Peter as the leader of Jesus’s apostles, the second half centred on Paul.  (There is a small overlap in Chapters 9-12 in which both Peter and Paul are active and there is a brief foreshadowing of Paul at 8.1).  St Luke doesn’t narrate the death of either Peter or Paul; they just disappear from the stage as others take their place.  (At the end of Acts [28.30-31] Paul is preaching and teaching ‘with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.’  His martyrdom falls outside the scope of Luke’s narrative.)

Paul has the same experiences that Peter had had, thereby showing himself a worthy apostle.  In Acts 5.18-19, and again in Acts 12.1-18, Peter is gaoled and miraculously released.  In today’s reading from Acts it is Paul (with Silas) who is arrested, thrown into prison, and miraculously delivered.

Luke makes a further point about the release of Paul and Silas.  It occasions the conversion of the gaoler and his household.  Their baptism made them, also, participants in the death and resurrection of Christ. [Cf Romans 6.3]