As I have been studying and reading the book of Acts again in preparation for teaching it in our Adult Education classes, I have been reminded over and over how differently the early church operated from our modern-day practice.
All the churches I have belonged to, or served as pastor of, tried to identify issues or problems, consulted with experts (or, at least, knowledgeable people), figured out ways to address the issue or fix the problem, then proceeded with the plan while trusting the Spirit of God to provide the necessary resources and energy. There is nothing wrong with that approach.
As I read the New Testament, however, I see the early church doing something entirely different. They put their primary emphasis and effort on worshipping God in Christ and practicing their faith in every sphere of their lives. And in the process of living out their discipleship they sensed God leading them in a certain direction. They then set in motion whatever action seemed appropriate.
For some time now I have been sensing that God is moving among us, perhaps in ways that are different from "business as usual" procedures. Others have been sensing it as well. It's hard to encapsulate what's happening, but the model of the early church is helpful. Maybe God is calling us to be more faithful to our identity as a worshipping community. Rather than adding more things to do, perhaps God is calling us to be who we really are - "a Christian covenant community exclusively devoted to Jesus Christ and inclusively committed to God's unconditional love."
Two opportunities provide opportunities for us be more faithful during Lent. On Sunday, March 5, each of you will be given a small cross to keep with you throughout the Lenten season. We ask you to carry it with you each day in your pocket or purse or wherever as a reminder of Jesus' words in Luke 9:23: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Make sure you bring your cross to worship each Sunday. It will be a part of our worship together each week.
Each Tuesday during Lent Lois and I invite you to join us in the chapel for "Tuesdays with Jesus." This will not be a worship service per se, but a time to pray and reflect together using Joyce Rupp's book The Cup of Our Life as a guide. Whatever your level of spiritual expertise - whether novice or specialist - there is a place for you in the chapel on Tuesday evenings. (Please see the insert in this newsletter for more information.)
Where is God leading us these days? None of us knows for sure, but we know the wind of the Spirit is blowing. Therefore, "it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" (Acts 15:28) to jump in and hang on. It promises to be a grand ride.