Voice of Renewal/Lay Education
Among the reading suggestions for those planning
to attend the VOTF convocation in July is the New Testamentís
Acts of the Apostles. The Voice of Renewal Working Group
is offering an excellent guide for individual, as well
as group, study.
A sample excerpt from the on-line discussion:
[For convenience, all references are to the online
Suggested Approach: Read Chapter 1 in Acts of the Apostles,
then read the commentary below. When you finish, perhaps
read Chapter 1 again.
Chapter 1 in the Acts of the Apostles seems to our
modern eyes and ears a straightforward narrative about
how the apostles regrouped following Jesus' death and
But Luke intends his careful construction to be much
more. He is affirming the legitimacy of the apostles
as witnesses and teachers, and linking them directly
to Jesus. He is foreshadowing the Pentecost. He is naming
the work the apostles will undertake, confirming the
fulfillment of prophecies, and marking the continuity
between Israel and the church. Not content with those
tasks, Luke also reintroduces the apostles and establishes
Luke does all this with relatively simple prose that
packs multiple meanings into almost every phrase. To
illustrate his methods, our review of Chapter 1 cites
connections and themes in each verse; for other chapters
our commentary will focus more on general themes than
on this verse-by-verse analysis.
As he begins Acts (1:1-2), Luke connects the Jesus
of his third gospel directly to the apostles in a way
that also reports on Jesus' ascension and identifies
the Holy Spirit as the one through whom Jesus acts:
"In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that
Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to
the apostles whom he had chosen."
The next phrase (Acts 1:3) asserts that it is the risen
Jesus who appeared to the apostles, proved his identity,
and continued teaching them:
"He presented himself alive to them by many proofs
after he had suffered, appearing to them during 40 days
and speaking about the kingdom of God."
Interestingly, this reference to 40 days of teaching
differs from Luke's own timeline in the third gospel,
where he set the Ascension on the evening of Easter
Sunday (Luke 24: 36-53). In keeping with his new purpose
in Acts, Luke chooses a more-symbolic number, a number
consistent with other Biblical periods of preparations,
and gives sacredness to the emergence of the church
after the ascension.
Verses 4 and 5 continue this carefully constructed
linkage. Jesus tells the apostles not to leave Jerusalem
but to wait for "the promise of the Father" -- that
is, the Holy Spirit -- who will baptize them as John
once baptized with water: a foreshadowing of the Pentecost
that at the same time identifies Jesus as the fulfillment
of John the Baptist's prophecy and John as the herald
of the church.
Luke then uses verses 6 through 8 to cover the central
question believers must have asked upon Jesus' death:
What do we do now?
The Voice of Renewal/Lay Education Working Group recently
posted on its Yahoo list site a study package on "Origins
of the Church." The package is designed to help lay
people conduct an adult education program focusing
on the milieu in which Jesus lived and taught, the
development of early house churches, and the slow emergence
of the "new" Christian church. The package includes
overviews and study questions for seven sessions, tips
on conducting sessions, and a timeline chart for the
writings ultimately gathered into the New Testament.
For more information, contact Donna B. Doucette (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or Anne Southwood (email@example.com)
or send an email message to VOR_VOTFfirstname.lastname@example.org
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