by Heidi Regier Kreider, WDC Conference Minister
How is your congregation listening to God’s word these days? What scriptures is your congregation focusing on in worship, preaching or Sunday school? How – and why – have those scriptures been selected for attention in your community of faith at this time? Perhaps this discernment is done by the pastor or a worship committee, or maybe your congregation follows a lectionary (multi-year schedule of readings), or uses scriptures determined by a specific curriculum or study series. There are many factors that shape our selections of scriptures which, in turn, shape us and our life as people of faith.
Recently I have noted that several WDC congregations are focusing on the book of Acts in their worship services, preaching or Bible study. This seems very fitting for our times: As we struggle with how to function as a community of faith in the midst of a pandemic, Acts brings us back to the basics of being church: Waiting together on the Holy Spirit, studying scripture, praying for one another, caring for the vulnerable and suffering, proclaiming the good news of Jesus. As we deal with disruption and so much that is beyond our control, Acts connects us with God’s people before us who also lived in the face of enormous uncertainty in between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the unfolding work of the Holy Spirit. As we respond to racial injustice and violence, Acts bears witnesses to a community forged by the Holy Spirit in the midst of significant ethnic, political, religious, social and economic differences.
These themes have resonated with me, as I have recently also been reading a commentary on Acts written by Willie James Jennings, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale Divinity School. In his commentary, Jennings explores the relevance of the book of Acts for the struggles of today. He says that while Acts is the story of the early church, it is more than that – It is also the story of the Holy Spirit who continues to intervene in our lives and world now. As a witness to the life of Jesus, the Holy Spirit continues to express God’s desire to be with and for us, leading us beyond our fears and the need for control into the “new that God imagines and is bringing about for the world” (p. 7).
As we engage scripture within our congregations, may the Holy Spirit continue to teach and guide us, empowering us as the courageous and compassionate body of Christ in today’s world.