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The Book of Acts (of the Acts of the Apostle Paul) is written by the same author as the gospel story told by Luke. Many today think that the two books together form one larger book, in which the death and resurrection of Jesus is not the end of the story, but rather the middle of a larger story, the point of departure for the creation, vocation, and work of the church.
The story of Pentecost – the birth of the Church in the giving of God’s Spirit – is the explosive beginning of the larger story told in Acts. The Spirit is the actor, the mover, and shaker, inviting and implicating people into the unfolding story and expanding work of God in the world.
The scene quickly changes from a private house (we’re unsure if it’s the same “upper room” from Luke 24) where the disciples are gathered (in hiding because of fear of persecution) to a very public scene on the street. God moves the people – literally – from nazel-gazing to engagement in the public square from fear to seemingly fearlessness.
Throughout the Bible the Spirit of God creates and causes such movement. In Greek the word Spirit (pneumos) means 1) spirit, 2) breath and 3) wind. We hear of the Spirit at the movement of creation. The Spirit comes upon the kings, judges and prophets to give wisdom, insight and courage. Yet it’s only here, in this story, that the Spirit is given to the masses.
In Genesis 2:7 the Spirit of God breaths life into dust and creates a human being. Here, the Spirit breaths life into a once cowardly disciple [Peter] and creates a new man who now has the gift of bold speech. This story is a snapshot of the larger story of Acts in which new life is breathed not just into Peter but to countless men and women who then speak up and out, paying forward the gift of God that they’ve tasted.
It’s a story that begins in and through the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s a story unfolding not just in the pages of the Bible, but throughout history up, and to us today, here, now. How is the Spirit of God breathing life into us moving us from fear to faith, from timidity to confidence, from death to life?
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation:
• What word, phrase or image grabs your attention?
• How do you (or have you) experienced the Spirit of God?
• How do the word of this story touch – our life as individuals and as the church here in Oakland – today?