As a church community we live and breath as disciples of Jesus Christ; it's who we are irrespective of age, demographic, culture and circumstance. Having just celebrated the Easter season, we enter a new season of living out the reality of the resurrection of Jesus in our various "neighborhood contexts". And within this particular "context" the "gospel" is to be made known. The gospel of the Kingdom of God is the announcement that through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, God has come to reconcile individuals by his grace and renew the whole world by and for his glory. The resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ, and the gift of the Spirit that comes to those who are raised with Christ, in Christ, is NOT about removing us from this broken world; it's about transforming us into God’s agents of transformation within this world.
In the opening sentences of Luke's record of the early Church (Acts 1:1-5)
"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
Of significance for us today as disciples of Jesus, as we reflect on what it means for us to be agents of transformation, is that the resurrected Jesus both spoke to the disciples about the Kingdom of God and he also told them of the empowering that they would be given in order to be agents of transformation as the the rule and reign of God impacted this world. As we move through the month of May, in this time between the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the celebration of Pentecost and the gift of the Spirit to the Church, we are provided with a wonderful opportunity to ready ourselves for embracing afresh the commission given to all disciples of Jesus to proclaim in word and action, the gospel of the kingdom.
Central to this embracing of the Kingdom proclamation mandate is us individually and corporately living out the love of Jesus in and through gift enabled service. This is why we see the Apostle Paul provide key teaching on what it means to be people of the Spirit set amidst teaching on what LOVE is. (1 Cor 13). Pressed between his explanation of of gifted disciples as The Body of Christ (chapter 12) and discussion about how to appropriately exercise spiritual gifts (chapter 14) is the eloquent poetic exhortation to 'live love lavishly' as we serve Christ and the Kingdom. As we look at the flow and transition of Luke's writing between the end of his gospel (Luke 24) and the opening chapters of what really is volume two of his 'Biography of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit', we find some principles that go deeper than simply contextual outworking of God. These principles are good for all time, not just for the early church and it certainly is not appropriate to dismiss the principles as simply being relevant for the early church only.
Principle One: Be receptive of the teaching of Jesus the Christ as seen in the gospels and taught by the apostles
Principle Two: Be transformed by the Holy Spirit into people who reflect the love and glory of God
Principle Three: Be empowered by the Holy Spirit for active service in his world using the gifts he gives you
Principle Four: Be committed to being Church that lives through a 'gathered and scattered' paradigm as we take our place in this world.
I urge you to take some time to read The Acts of the Apostles in the Bible and reflect upon these four principles. They provide for us an agenda of what it means for us to live as disciples today. Acts 2:42-47 does provide a summary of the dedicated love and care that encompassed the early church and it speaks of the specifics of what it meant for them to be devoted to Jesus Christ and his Kingdom. Beyond this however, this description of 'devotion' summarises the four principles I have outlined above, and what are elaborated on in Lukes second volume of his writing to the one called Theophilus.
Blessings and love,
Rev'd Dr. Drew Mellor