The Journey So Far
It feels weird to look back at April 29th knowing that it was 14 weeks ago. That’s right, Missio Church launched 14 weeks ago. So much has happened in those 14 weeks. Traveling, vacations, school ending, parties, hardship, health issues and so much more. And one of the unbelievable things to me is that we are better now than we were 14 weeks ago. I’m not saying that our worship gatherings have gotten crisper or our preaching has been otherworldly. What I am saying is that because of the reality of our life experience, we are better than we were 14 weeks ago. When those things that make us stronger, make us question the status quo, make us dream bigger and work harder are played out in the tapestry of our collective story. We are a church that has the blemished image of real people seeking out real community and really searching for how Jesus can become King of our homes, our neighborhoods, our city. We are a church that is 14 weeks old. And we have just begun!
Over these 14 weeks we have been working our way through the story of Acts. Specifically we have been looking at the Mission of God in Acts and then doing the hard work of trying to understand how that story plays out for us here in Seattle in 2018 and beyond. And while we have covered nearly eight full chapters of this 28 chapter book of the Bible, there is a part of me that realizes we need to stop for a moment and attempt to recap all that we have discovered from this story of real people really pursuing Jesus together.
I am not going to detail out everything we have talked about from the beginning of Acts to now. But I do want to touch on some of the highlights.
Acts begins with Jesus, who has just been resurrected from the dead, spending around forty days going around to his closest friends and followers one last time to empower them to pursue his mission in the world. In Acts 1:8 Jesus is talking with his closest friends and he lays out for the them the map of how his movement would spread around the world. He says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The rest of Acts is the story of how Jesus’ movement would then spread as he told his friends that it would.
Acts 2 then is a glimpse into those first weeks of this new movement of Jesus followers as they are navigating leading his movement without him at the helm. But Jesus does what Jesus always does and, as he promised throughout the years he was ministering throughout Galilee, Jesus leaves and then immediately sends his spirit to dwell within humanity to encourage them, to empower them, to give them power and and the ability to love in ways they previously were not capable of doing. The first church is born in Acts 2 and begins a journey that will span more than 2000 years and reach billions of people with the power, presence, and purpose of Jesus
Acts chapters 3-5 begin a narrative where there is power and persecution. The movement of Jesus is beginning to ignite in Jerusalem and people are taking notice. People are being healed and, in one particular moment, Peter and John pass by a man begging for money and do something few had done in the man’s life. They pause their movement and look at the man and proclaim, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” We tend to read this and get excited that what Peter and John had was the power to heal in the name of Jesus. And certainly that is what they had. But it was more than just that. What they had was something we all possess and forget is one of the most powerful gifts we can give. It is the power of presence. When countless people passed this beggar without notice or compassion, Peter and John gave what all people possess but so often fail to give, they looked, listened, and engaged in this man’s story. What is really important to understand is that this theme of noticing, of pausing and slowing down to listen to people’s stories will come up time and again in Acts.
This moment of power leads to a period of persecution for the church that would last throughout the story of Acts. And yet the persecution was met by a determined spirit to continue moving the movement forward through word, deed, and reconciliation. Even when it felt like forces greater than our individual wills could muster was trying to silence the movement entirely, a voice of reason and power rose from one of the religious leaders set on ending Jesus’ influence once and for all. In Acts 5, after arresting and threatening the Christian leaders to never speak about Jesus again, Gamaliel, one of the Jewish leaders, spoke up delivering a message that would ring throughout time. He said in Acts 5:39, “If their movement is from God, you will not be able to stop these men. You will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
Jesus’ movement would in fact continue to build momentum and power while also working to deal with the problems that began to arose from within. Chapters 6 and 7 of Acts show the church wrestling with internal challenges and external challenges that would threaten the forward momentum of the church. But each time the church was faced with unprecedented hurdles, people rose to the challenge, by the power of Jesus within them, to create solutions and work toward a better tomorrow.
And while challenge, persecution, and strife are important to deal with, chapter 8 begins a narrative of the church finding an identity in creating ministry that would embed within cities and begin to reach the nations.
In 14 weeks we have covered some incredibly important ground with the new church in Acts. And the beauty of what we are discovering about this new church in Acts is that we are not far off from them as a church in 21st Century Seattle. Missio is using the church in the first century as a foundation for understanding what it means to be a people on mission wherever God leads us. And I can’t wait to learn more as we continue through Acts together.