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Prepare for Worship: Notes for services on January 4, 2015

The Sending Savior

Corey Widmer on Acts 1:1-11


The Story Continues

Today, Third Church is entering into a completely new and exciting chapter of our long story, even as we are in continuity with all that has come before. We are in a new denomination, one that is eager to empower congregations for creative works of mission. We are in a metropolitan city that is growing and changing in dynamic ways, and one in which God is clearly at work to advance his Kingdom and to bring healing and reconciliation. We are in a cultural moment in which growing secularity is requiring the North American church to restore its original identity as a missionary community. Who knows what the next chapter will hold?

There is One who does. As we dream and envision what lies ahead together, we take our cues from the One who reigns and writes the story of history. We want to follow Him and His ways, not our own creative ideas.

For that reason we’ll be spending the first five weeks of the year studying some key passages together in the book of Acts. The book of Acts is not just an interesting narrative on the ancient church – it is our story, the story that we are a part of and that the Spirit of God continues to write for us today, both as a community and as individuals.  We listen deeply to the story of the church so we know how to live as faithful followers of Jesus in this new time and place. 

Week 1: The Beginning of Acts

This week, we begin with the first scene of Acts, when Luke recalls the forty days Jesus spent with His disciples after his resurrection. Culminating with His ascension into heaven, those forty days were filled with His teaching them about Himself and the Kingdom of God, and preparing them to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  They were a pivot between Jesus' personal ministry on earth (when he invited the ordinary and unworthy into God's community) and the continuation of His ministry through the church (when that new community continued to invite those on the margins into transforming relationships with God) . The two parts of the narrative experienced by Jesus' first followers are key to understanding our call, today, too: Jesus first drew ordinary men and women into His story, then He sent them out into the world. 

As you prepare for our worship together this Sunday, consider that we, today, are also invited to approach Jesus just as we are, but then to be changed, and sent. 

Acts 1:1-11

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 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. 4 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. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” 


“We don’t have to fit into prefabricated moral and mental or religious boxes before we are admitted into the company of God. We are taken seriously just as we are and given place in his story — for it is, after all, God’s story. None of us is the leading character in the story of our lives. God is the larger context and plot in which all our stories find themselves.” 

--Eugene Peterson