Or something like that…
In the first 3 Sundays of May, I will be preaching in our contemporary worship service and will be preaching a series on what Christ has left us with to be faithful Christians. Or, after Easter… What are the “Gifts of Christ for Easter Living”?
A common approach these days–whatever the musical style of the worship service, by the way, would be to talk about these as abstracted spiritual principles. But that doesn’t seem to square with what Scripture says or how Scripture says it. I’ve been thinking in this vein for some years now and am ready to try my hand at teaching/preaching on it. It seems to me that Scripture narrates dynamic gifts rather than teaching static principles.
I think the answer to the question is three-fold: Word, Spirit, Community. Faithful Christian belief and practice seems to be guided by the dynamic engagement of these three.
1. Reading the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit within the Community of faith.
2. Discerning the guidance of the Spirit of God from the witness of the Word in the prayerful consideration of the Community.
3. Living in Christian Community that is grounded in the Word and powerfully animated by the Spirit.
Looking to Scripture for help with this will take us primarily to Luke–the first few chapters after Jesus’ resurrection at the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts in particular–with some help from John.
1. WORD: Luke 24:13-32 tells of the disciples who encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus. He opens the Scriptures to them but remains hidden to them until he is made known in the breaking of the bread. John adds to this in a couple of wonderful ways. First, read together, I had not noticed this before, but to hear John speak of the Word made flesh and dwelling among us in light of the Emmaus-bound disciples’ enlightment at the connection between Word and Eucharist is worth meditating upon. Second, one of the messages of John’s text on so-called “doubting” Thomas is to shore up the value and benefit of belief because of the witness of others, since that’s what John’s readers, including us, must do. We cannot, like Thomas, demand to see the scars upon hearing that we were out to dinner when Jesus came by the Upper Room. This will be on the first Sunday in May and we will, fitting both the day and the message, share in Holy Communion.
2. SPIRIT: Acts 1:8, 2:1-13 are the classic texts of Pentecost, in which we see the gift of the Holy Spirit. The transformation of the disciples into world-changers is remarkable and the Spirit of God is the reason why. John is helpful in a couple of ways. First, in what some regard as his version of the Pentecost story–20:19-23, in which Jesus breathes on the disciples, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” and giving instructions about forgiving and retaining of sins. Weighty stuff. Second, in John 14-16, Jesus talks about the Spirit who will come when he is gone to the Father. This will be on the second Sunday in May, Pentecost Sunday (in addition to being Mothers’ Day”.
3. COMMUNITY: Acts 2:42-47 famously relates the practice of the earliest of Christian communities. Peter’s preaching of Christ through the Word, in the power of the Holy Spirit produces an incredible response. The people come to faith in Christ and are immediately incorporated into a community that is working out practices as well as beliefs that will form them for mission and sustain them in the faith. John is helpful as we look to Jesus’ prayer for unity for the disciples in chapter 17.
So, there you have it. A preview of my 3-part sermon series for the first 3 weeks of May. As always, I welcome participation in thinking and praying this through. I hope to begin blogging my first study and prep a little this week.
Thoughts so far?