Those of us who are working sometimes describe ourselves as wage slaves. We are just small cogs in the machinery of the large economy. What difference do we make? We may ask ourselves the same question about the church. What good can we do in the world? Today we see the church in action today in the town of Philippi-one day, and night, for Paul and Silas. A day full of the most extraordinary work of God-bringing freedom and life. God is doing the same work today, through us.
We so readily make distinctions between people, those who are in and those who are out. The same was also true also of the world of the early church-There were Jews and Gentiles; people like us, and people we didn’t like. God has mind and heart expanding to do. Through a dream and the work of the Holy Spirit, Peter comes to realise that God’s love is universal. Jesus lived and died for all people. God’s inclusive love begins among us, and through us, into a divided world. We have good news to share, the “repentance which leads to life,” the gift God wants to give to all people.
The Book of Acts is full of the names of the first Christians. Each one of them is a person known by God, and called to serve him and love others. Today we meet Tabitha. Her good works have shown God’s love. Now that she has died, God shows his love for her and the church by raising her from the dead through Peter. She is restored to her community, and the good news spreads even further. Tabitha’s life is a template for all disciples. We are known personally by God. We are called to do good, help the poor and love one another.
This week we see God in action in two ways. One is dramatic-God pulls up Saul short of Damascus and changes his life completely. The other is less spectacular but just as important. God speaks to Ananias and uses him to prepare Paul for his mission to the Gentiles. The story of God in our lives may be like Paul’s or Ananias’, or something in between. And God allows us to be his chosen instruments to share the good news of his love. That his mission to our world, through each one of us.
Easter has come and gone for another year. But the death and resurrection of Jesus continues to ripple out from Easter Day. God is not finished. God is still at work. The Book of Acts is the story of God in ACTS-ion through the church. Not just 2000 years ago, but now too. We have the Holy Spirit as the first disciples did, and the same good news too. Each Sunday is Resurrection Day, as we receive God’s forgiveness, a brand-new start. As witnesses of God’s grace, we display God’s love to the world.
The first months of 2022 have been exhausting. There hasn’t been a lot of good news around. The Easter long weekend gives us a chance to rest, sleep in, potter around, relax, and to be renewed on body and soul through Jesus’ resurrection. The tomb is empty, and our future is full of hope. We share in Jesus’ new life. We face the future positively, because Jesus has defeated sin, death and evil. Jesus’ victory is God’s gift to us. This is what we celebrate today, and what we will celebrate eternally. Body and soul, in a new heaven and a new earth. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Have you been on a long trip with children? Do you remember the question, “Are we there yet?” Jesus’ disciples may have had the same question about his ministry. Jesus has been heading toward Jerusalem from some time, and now he is almost there. What welcome will he get? What will he do? They are hoping for a warm welcome. That’s what Jesus receives from his followers, but others are not so keen. By the end of the week, Jesus is again outside the city. But this time, he is hanging on a cross, rejected by those he came to save. This is no accident. This is where he has been heading since he began his ministry. And this is the way that God will bring peace to all people, the peace he calls us to live and share.
We are a month into autumn and our farmers are waiting for the opening rains. But even if they don’t come, they will sow into the dry ground, hoping and praying for rain, as they remember good seasons past. In difficult times, Psalm 126 invites us to reflect on how God has sustained us in the past. He has brought seeds planted in hope to harvest. He has given us his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the seed that falls into the earth and dies and bears the fruit of new life in God’s people, and brings hope for the world. We live in the power of this incredible promise, and that’s why, even when sow in tears, we will reap with songs of joy.
Today’s psalm and the parable in the Gospel proclaim a very similar message. The gift of God’s forgiveness offers us a new start in life. And what a new start! Traditionally the story in the Gospel reading has been known as ‘the parable of the prodigal son’. But it’s really just as much about the other son as well. It’s also far much more about the father than it is about his two sons. ‘The merciful father’ is one of the better names I’ve come across – or even ‘The waiting father’. This merciful father is trying to get across to his sons that life in his family is really a party. In this parable both of these sons had problems understanding that. Maybe readers of this parable today still have trouble seeing their life, particularly as a Child of God, as a party.