Reflecting Rejoicing Requesting

A service at FBC Worcester

July 16, 2017

6th week after Pentecost

Acts 5:12-42


Reflecting

Psalm 103

Silent Reflection

Spend some time reading the Psalm to yourself. Read it once through, and then in the silence, reflect on a word or phrase that resonated with you.

 

Now, read the Psalm a second time, and in silence reflect again on a word or phrase that resonates with your spirit.

 

Read it once more; allowing your mind to wander as you contemplate what you have read, what you have heard, what you have felt, what you believe.

 

Pray those words, now.

 

 

 

 

 

Rejoicing

 

Scripture Reading: Acts 5:12-16

In the absence of a musical reflection, spend a moment reading the Scripture from the Story of Acts.

 

As you think of the wonders and celebrations that the people of God experienced, what comes to mind in your own lived experience? Was are joys, celebrations, things or people for which you are grateful?

 

Spend a moment and write a few of those down.

 

Prayers of Thanksgiving

Speak those words out loud. Your joys, your triumphs, your celebrations, your gratitude.

 

*Passing of the Joy

As you move throughout your day, find ways to pass on the joy of Christ to others, much like we pass the peace of Christ.

 

 

Requesting

 

Scripture Reading: Acts 5:17-42

Once again, spend a few moments reading this story. What jumps out to you?

What is difficult to read or hear?

What is surprising?

How might the early followers’ experiences relate to your own?

 

Prayers of the People

Voice your concerns and challenges aloud. What are you afraid of?

What do you need?

What do you want?

How are you experiencing life this week?

Speak those concerns to God.

Trust that God hears you,

That God sees you,

That God knows you.

 

 

 

 

Responding

 

Pastoral Meditation

 

All this talk about prayer,

What would it mean for you to believe something was there?

 

That someone was on the other end of your prayers?

 

What would prayer become if so?

 

What would you become?

 

 

And all this talk about prisons,

What imprisons you, binds you, burdens you?

 

What if God could provide you a way to freedom like the apostles experienced here?

 

 

For many in our community, they, too, are imprisoned–some literally, and others like us– figuratively weighed down, kept down, by systems that are not fair to them, that are unjust toward them.

 

It is in this Scripture that Peter says “we must obey God rather than any human authority.”

 

This isn’t a case for a religious retreat from secular society, nor for blatant disregard for the importance of laws in a society. Rather, it highlights the important place for religious-minded individuals in a society; it’s a bold call to civil disobedience when leaders or systems exploit, demean, dehumanize, or are altogether unjust, unfair, or prejudiced against a group of people based on their religion, their country of origin, their race, their gender identity, their sexual orientation, their socio-economic status. This is Peter and the apostles signaling to those who believe in the Way of Jesus: to #resist

 

 

And this is important because prayer isn’t just these three R words: reflecting and rejoicing and requesting. Prayer ought to nudge us to some sort of action, a response. Recognizing God’s invitation to partner in doing good in the world, we respond, like the apostles here, by joining in.

 

It might be intimidating, unnerving, dangerous even, to speak up or act on behalf of those who are an excluded minority. But the story of this text reminds us that even if those things are all true, we don’t do it alone.

 

Look at this line in verse 39. It underscores the religious elite and their skepticism and frustration and attempts at intimidation. Gamaliel says that if it originates with God—the movement of the apostles—then they won’t have the power to stop them. Scholar Luke Timothy Johnson believes this to be a sort of snarkiness from Gamaliel. After all, the religious elite believe they are the ones in God’s favor, not these earliest Jesus followers.

 

Interestingly, the word “to overthrow” is literally “to have power to stop them.”[1] It is the same word of which we spoke previously when referring to the power of the Spirit at work in the apostles and at Pentecost. The word dunamis from which we get the word dynamite.

 

Dunamis.

 

Another word jumps off the page, too.

 

Originate.

 

If it originates with God,

Then you won’t have the dunamis to stop them.

 

Consider some synonyms for this word. And how common they are to the Story of God and the people of God.

Create.

Arise.

Stem.

Spring.

Conceive.

Form.

Generate.

Emerge.

Emanate.

 

If it’s created by God,

if like Jesus it arises by God,

if it springs from God,

if it’s conceived by God,

if it is generated by God,

if it emerges from God,

if it emanates from God

You won’t have the dunamis to stop it.

 

My friends, the work of God within you and through you is unstoppable.

That is, God’s work in you is dynamic, another word that derives from dunamis.

 

What is originating within you

what is springing up,

arising,

emerging,

emanating?

What is God conceiving within you?

What is being created?

 

Let it spring up,

let it rise up,

let it emerge like a wildfire and

emanate from the depths of who you are.

 

Believe it.

Be empowered.

To Embrace it.

To Engage it.

To unleash it.

 

The witness of the early followers of Jesus wasn’t just to

reflect

or rejoice

or request.

They didn’t just resist the powers that were.

They responded.

They spoke up.

They acted.

 

The Story of Acts originates with them, but now it emanates from you. 

 

So, go.

 

Be dynamic.

 

Amen.

[1] See footnote 240 from Robert W. Wall, “The Acts of the Apostles” from The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Vol. X, 108.

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