Tagged: angels

Acts 1:6-14

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on May 28, 2017.

After Jesus’ resurrection, he showed himself to be alive to the disciples and many of his other followers over the next forty days. Jesus continued to talk with them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3) as his time of departure approached.  His final conversation with the remaining eleven disciples took place on a Thursday before he ascended from earth back to heaven.   The main theme of the conversation still centered around the kingdom of God.

The disciples thought if their king had risen from the brutal death he endured, then their ideas of the coming kingdom must be alive once more.  Perhaps now was the time Jesus would free them from the ongoing Roman oppression they had endured as Jews since 63 B.C.  Now would be a wonderful time to put their occupiers out of their sights and cleanse their promised land of Israel of all foreign rule and idolatry that had crept in over the past half millennia plus.  Thus, the final recorded question to Jesus from the disciples before his ascension is an important one that helps us understand their ongoing expectations.

“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

Jesus tells them such timing is not the main issue for them to concern themselves and instead redirects their question to a promise and a purpose for them.  The promise is that power is coming to them in the form of the Holy Spirit.  The purpose is for them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Luke groups his letter of Acts in this succession of chapters: Jerusalem (1-7), Judea and Samaria (8-12), the ends of the earth (13-28).

The theme of “witness” saturates Acts as the word “martures” in various forms is found thirty-nine times. We get our English word martyr from this Greek word for witness as the two became linked through the stories of persecution of the faithful ones who shed their blood as martyrs of the faith as they witnessed about their risen king named Jesus.

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Hebrews 1:1-4

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on December 25th, 2016.

radiance-1929-jpglargeHebrews is distinctive in the New Testament literature.  In the letters of Paul and Peter, we recognize the familiar formula of a letter.  Later the writer of Hebrews will describe this work as “a letter of exhortation” (13:22).   As we read Hebrews aloud, we may hear the exhortation, not just from the writer, but from God.  God speaks in answer to our heart cry, “We need to hear from you.  We need a word from you.  If we don’t hear from you, what will we do?”  Are we waiting for a word?  If God could speak to us, what would God say?  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the very same God who spoke in the past still speaks today.

A sermon might explore the ways that God speaks to people.  How did God speak in the past?  Not only did God speak through the general revelation of creation.  No, God spoke to and through the personalities of the prophets.  In the Old Testament, we learn that God spoke to the ancestors of the readers of the Hebrews.  Characteristically, the prophets said, “The word of the Lord came . . .” and then they spoke, “Thus says the Lord.”  The words came over a span of hundreds of years beginning with Moses and going through Malachi. God spoke differently to and through different prophets.  Moses heard God’s voice in a burning bush and also in the thunder of the storm.  Elijah heard the “still, small voice.”  Isaiah saw God high and lifted up in the Temple and heard him say, “Who will go for us?”  Ezekiel heard from God on a field trip to a valley of dry bones.  The heavens were not silent as stone.  God spoke to his people through the prophets.  Now, in Christ, God speaks again, to us.

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