Perhaps “reading the Bible” has not been your thing until now. The whole idea may seem foreign because the Bible is an ancient book, and therefore not really relevant to our life in the 21st century. Or perhaps it seems so overwhelming, trying to plow through such a large book—and all those unpronounceable names and events that belong in dusty history. Or else it seemed like such a “holy” thing to do, you might have felt like it was foreign to your normal, everyday life. Whatever your reasons for not having read Scripture before, let me invite you to join our group of people from our parishes as we give it a try.
In his Introduction to the Acts of the Apostles in The New Interpreter’s Bible, New Testament scholar Robert W. Wall says,
The book of Acts is one of the most exciting and challenging books in the New Testament. Here we find a highly evocative story of the church’s beginnings that traces its dramatic growth from sacred Jerusalem to imperial Rome. Because of its continuing importance in shaping the identity of today’s church, Acts demands our most careful reading and thoughtful interpretation. (p. 3)
That very nicely sums up the reason why our continuing Bible study will explore The Acts of the Apostles as its first full-length Scripture. Scholars consider the Gospel of Luke and Acts together as a two-volume work: the first goes from before Jesus’ conception to his Resurrection in Jerusalem; the second (Acts) picks up the story from Jesus’ Ascension, following the works of the first apostles until Paul is proclaiming the gospel in Rome itself.
An old joke goes: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time! That same approach might work for our Bible study—picking one very absorbing book, reading and enjoying each of its stories in turn, and through thoughtful discussion, coming to familiarity with it and making sense of it at the same time. Using some of the tools we learned about during our Lenten meetings, we will read through the book in the hope of deepening our understanding of the early Church through Luke’s account.
The Acts of the Apostles consists of many episodes: the Ascension of Jesus, the Day of Pentecost, the martyrdom of Stephen, Peter’s adventures and conflicts with Judean authorities, Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian, the conversion of Saul to become St. Paul and his various missions… It would make a great movie (and I think TV has done that!), but there is more. At every turn, there are memorable speeches by these figures which go deeper into the meaning of what is happening than just the action or miracles themselves show.
We are going to take time with each episode to read and examine it. We will read what is in the text or story—what is happening, as Luke tells it. But as we read, we will also get “behind” the story to ask why Luke chose to include this particular event or speech, and what that tells us about the world of those early apostles and why they risked everything to bring their message to an often-hostile world. And finally, we will seek to understand what each story in itself points to—that is, to realize and understand how Luke, through his history, is guiding us to see how God is working out God’s divine purpose through each successive encounter. What began with a tiny group of Jesus’ followers in the backwater of Jerusalem finally concludes (for Luke) with the Word reaching the Rome of the Caesars—the center of the world itself.
Please join us as we begin our journey together, every other Thursday night at 7:00 PM, starting May 4th!