“Begin Again”: A Weekly Devotional for a New Year, Week 10

“The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.”

Acts 5:12-16

That second sentence fascinates me: “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.” How often is that true of us? Something new, mysterious, powerful happens in our community, and we hesitate: We are not sure if it is good, and to be joined? Or harmful, and to be shunned – or at least, ignored?

We often have good reason to wonder. We just feel like something is not quite right – it looks good, even attractive and exciting – but what we see on first, second, and third looks, doesn’t sit well with us. And, of course, sometimes we find out more, and really know – for reasons x, y, and z – that we should not participate: What is happening over there, with them, does not match up with our deeply held values.

Then there is something like what we read about in Acts 5: The sick are healed; the afflicted are delivered. The Apostles perform signs and wonders. God appears to be with them, in power. And the early church does not just enjoy the light show of God’s wonders, they also dig in and do the hard work of sharing what they have, with their neighbors in need.

But, for the person looking in from the outside, it must have been difficult: “That seems good… Wow! Some of that seems amazing! I’m not so sure about that…” The only way for onlookers to be convinced, in their hearts, was to step into the new world that God was creating through the apostles: To experience, for themselves, the new thing that God was doing. But when they did that, were they completely convinced – zero reservations – that everything was alright? That this was a good thing, from top to bottom, first to last? Probably not.

Probably not, because even though God was doing truly amazing things through the Apostles and the early church, God was also doing them through people…. People, like you and me: Flawed, sinful, quirky, sometimes wrong – a lot of human passions and impurity mixed in with undeniable, divine purpose.

Is that where you are? Looking in from the outside, wondering if those churchy, Jesusy people are for real? If God is really doing a new thing in and through them? I’m sure you can see our human, all-too-human, flaws, and I’ve got news for you: They only become more apparent, the closer you get. But the church – the people who God’s Spirit gathers and works through – is also the only place where he promises to work out his divine purposes. Jump in: The water is fine, and through it and the Spirit, you can have a new life.

Prayer: Lord, when I look at your church, I see a lot of human stuff. Some of it makes me wonder – makes me nervous – and I’m not sure I want to get any closer. But, God, it’s also hard to deny that you’re there, with those people, and that you sometimes do amazing things in and through them. Help me to leave behind my worry, and step into your church, so I can be one, flawed, sinful human being among other flawed, sinful human beings. Amen.

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