No Longer Simply a Follower - Rev. Dr. John Regan

"So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” - Acts 1:6-8                                                                        

We recently began the journey of the 2017 Pastors’ class with a retreat.  In one of our activities, we played a game where two groups were challenged to identify where a story was located in the Bible.  As we were playing the game the pastors surreptitiously shared important context and background to the biblical stories.  There was a little surprise when we mentioned that there were two Christmas stories in the Bible.  Later in the game, one group did not know that the Acts of the Apostles was the second volume written by the author of the Gospel of Luke.   

I believe that the Pastor’s class has strong connections with the book of Acts.  One of the central themes of Acts describes the nature of this new human phenomenon called the Church.  What type of counter-cultural movement is getting started?  What kind of men and women will lead this new community?  If the Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus’ life and ministry, Acts is the sequel story of what came next.  Acts tells the story of ordinary people who launched a new extraordinary movement.

At some point in our lives, we can no longer simply be a follower.  We have to make up our own mind.  We have to make hard choices about school, vocation, love, and the very meaning of existence.  The Pastors’ class like the followers of Jesus in the book of Acts are nearing the end of the path of being simply a disciple.  A disciple is a student who is solely dependent upon the teacher or master.  But in the Acts of the Apostles, we have a new word and a new reality.   Apostles are no longer simply followers but they are now leaders who are sent out into the world.   In the Pastors’ class, we have conversations about why we are following Jesus Christ.  The old answers “my parents make me go to Church” or “all my friends go to Church” which are sufficient for children, are now no longer adequate to sustain the journey into and through adolescence.     

It is always important to translate the Gospel to a specific time and place.  In Oklahoma, I think the language of homesteaders and pioneers serve as great metaphors for our spiritual journey.  A homesteader, metaphorically speaking, is someone who is given a wondrous gift of land, expected to take care of it, and to enjoy it.  However, there is really no further expectations.  A pioneer though is someone who is on a life changing journey.  This pilgrimage does not always have clear signs or reliable maps.  Each day there are new challenges and often the only resources available to us are what we know and who is with us on the journey.  I remain in the Church because it has special knowledge about the meaning and purpose of life.  I cling to the Church because I also encounter remarkable people who help me make sense of my life and the world. 

Loving Creator, you bring us into this world as helpless infants.  We teach our parents how to love through our absolute dependency.  And then you slowly teach us to become more independent so that we will one day know this great capacity to love.  Amen.

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