“You will be my witnesses”

This week marks the genesis of St. Alban’s study of the Acts of the Apostles. I have sensed great excitement around the parish as we begin to dive into this spiritually and theologically rich record of the early church. Over the next five weeks, we will discuss five watershed moments in the Acts of the Apostles. This week introduces us to the book. Let’s begin!

the ends of the earth

Before Jesus ascends into heaven he gives his apostles a promise. Note: this is not a commission (as we find in Matthew), but a promise: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). (As opposed to Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”)

Now maybe I am being a little particular in the difference between a commission and a promise, but I do think we can glean something from the description that is set before us in Acts. I find the account in Acts refreshing because we, as Christ’s apostles (literally: those who are sent), are going with God. We are not alone, the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the power, indeed the one who drives us to be Christ’s witnesses to all the ends of the earth.

Of course, “the ends of the earth” is a geographical description. And as a fulfillment of this promise, we are building relationships with Anglican churches in southern Malawi. But, as the ancients often did, I also ask you to read this promise allegorically. Where are the ends of the earth for you? Is it an emotional limit? Is there a spiritual boundary that you are afraid to cross? What is stopping you from being a witness to Jesus’ resurrection? Is it fear of being denied? Are you embarrassed of sharing your faith?

I ask you to take heart – for it is not you doing this work. It is the Holy Spirit doing this work through you. As you will see in the Acts of the Apostles, it is the Holy Spirit that moves, inspires, and empowers the Church to do the work of Jesus, and to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea, Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.

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