Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us.
-from this Sunday's collect
As our Good Book club has worked its way through the Acts of the Apostles this Easter season, we've all remarked on how different Acts is from the book of Luke, which we read during Lent, even though it is thought they are by the same author. Acts is the next chapter - the story of the early church after Jesus ascends to God. There's a lot in there about Peter, and even more about Paul, as they begin to form a whole new community of faith - a whole new world religion.
Our book group admits to missing the stories of Jesus' life, teachings and his healings. The book of Acts contains much about the apostles struggling to make sense of the loss of their leader and figuring out how to carry on without him. It is so obvious that they are 'just people' like us, yet there is huge enthusiasm and trust among them, along with a profound sense of mission. Acts describes all their efforts, successes, travels and conflicts as the church began to be a real thing.
Our group admits to feeling challenged by Acts. As we read about the way the apostles risked everything - including their lives - to follow in the way of Jesus, we've wondered how we, who are also 'just people,' could possibly be as faithful as those early Christians. How can we witness as powerfully to the healing power of Christ in our own day? How can we foster an excitement about God's good news in 2018 New England? Jesus' ministry was so fresh in the period described in Acts. How can our faith be as fresh when it was so very long ago that Jesus walked the earth and the world was so different than it is today?
This Sunday is the last Sunday of the Easter season. Then the next Sunday, on Pentecost, we will read the well known passage from the beginning of the book of Acts that celebrates the arrival of the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit that accompanied the early disciples in all their acts. It was the Spirit of God that led them, urged them, comforted them and challenged them to commit themselves to God's mission in the world. It was an adjustment for them to move from having a living, breathing teacher guiding them to discerning God's spirit among them, but the thing is - they DID that. They come to trust that God is still with them no matter what. This is kind of what the book of Acts is all about. And trust in God is at the core of the life of faith, no matter what time in history we're talking about.
Come join together with God's church on West Street in Keene this Sunday and sing Easter hymns for one more week. The Spirit is always with us!