April 2015 – Easter
The Book of Acts tells us about the blossoming of the Christian church and its faith. In our readings this month are four glimpses of a growing church that stood firmly in the belief that God had raised Jesus to life — and that this risen Jesus is the heart of the universe.
5 April, Acts 10:34-43
There are two points of amazement in this story. The first has to do with the way God has acted through Jesus to offer life to the world, a promise made certain by the resurrection. The second moment of amazement, one we usually find much harder to deal with, is Peter’s opening remark. The fact that “God shows no partiality” (v. 34). God actually loves everyone the same.
The heart of the gospel is the promise of reconciliation, the breaking down of barriers, divisions or petty claims such as “God loves me more than you”.
God’s love is an act of grace, shared equally by all. We cannot do anything to make God love us more than others, or to love others less than us.
Think about the way you speak about and treat others. Do you really reflect the sense that “God shows no partiality”?
12 April, Acts 4:32-35
I have a suspicion that we read this story as the lovely actions of an enthusiastic church looking forward to the early return of Jesus. And that such things as are mentioned in this passage have stopped, because people had to then live in the “real” world. That is, it was a lovely idea, but entirely impractical – a text to be passed over unless someone carelessly leaves it in the lectionary.
Unlike the parallel passage in 2:44-45, this passage does not say they held everything in common but, rather, that no-one considered anything their personal property. They may have owned it, but everything was for the good of all.
The passage challenges us with the central value of mutual and shared life. The practices of a resurrection community, are always opposed to the view that our only interest is in looking after ourselves.
Private possession, and looking after ‘me’ have become central values. What does your Church do that reflects values more like those in this passage?
19 April, Acts 3:12-19
A man who could not walk or work begs each day at the Temple. Peter and John come along, and rather than offer money, they heal him. He had been there some years, so his sudden “walking and leaping and praising God” (3:8) were noticed.
How is this healing possible? Peter’s response is interesting and challenging. First, he asks why they are surprised (3:12). Is their God, the God of their ancestors, incapable of bringing new life? Have they lost an awareness of the deep spiritual life of God active in the world?
What Peter goes on to say to them is something like: “Look, I believe in the same God as you, and this God has acted decisively in Jesus. In your ignorance, you rejected him, but now there is another chance. Have a relationship with The One who can heal and bring forgiveness.”
What do you do to nurture your awareness of the deep spiritual life of God that is active in the world?
26 April, Acts 4:5-12
If the people were astonished because of the healing of the man who could not walk, the religious leaders were a little angry. And why not? To save the nation, they had arranged for Jesus to be killed. Now, Peter and John are telling everyone that he was actually God’s chosen one, that he had been raised to life, and that he was the source of healing.
The implication is that those guarding the law and the prophets’ messages, have been ignorant of what God was doing. As a result, their whole world seems to be under threat by what Jesus had stirred up.
They seek to frighten and bully disciples Peter and John into silence, but there is a strange new courage at work in the world.
Jesus challenges our self-interest. What privilege or self-interest do you find hardest to give up, so you can listen to Jesus and gain LIFE?
These reflections were prepared by Rev. Dr Chris Budden, the interim National Coordinator of Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress