What turns a group of defeated disciples (read: students)
into a vibrant host of apostles (read: missionaries)? What
sparks dozens, hundreds, and then thousands to adopt a Way of
faith and life so contagious that it multiplies to this day in many
nations and cultures? Luke writes in Acts that Christians practiced
certain essentials: learning the Way and word of Jesus—
storyteller and divine Word made flesh; entering into genuine
community with others following this Way; sharing meals,
resources, and daily prayers.
When any of us embrace the abundant life these practices
can bring, joy overflows. Then glad and generous hearts are
prepared to face and endure suffering in its many forms. Even
in death, love prevails. In broken relationships, forgiveness
heals. Every ending can yield a new beginning. Acts 2 gives us
a portrait of the body of Christ in its ideal and attractive power.
How can we find an experience of life in Christ like this?
Our media in 2017 allows us a multitude of amazing human
connections. Media can also fill our lives with superficial relationships
that evaporate in the face of broken relationships,
poverty, and violence. We long for intimate connections with
enough people that we make a difference for good in our world.
Such relationships can lead us to share our gifts as well as our
vulnerability, deepening our interdependence as a body of faith
in Christ. This community of trust in the divine good shepherd
leads and equips each of us to shepherd one another. While
hundreds come to worship at my church, each Monday I gather
with seven others for an hour for prayer and accountability in
our discipleship. We try to practice compassion, justice, devotion,
and worship. Together we discover the guidance of the
God, be our shepherd, as in love we shepherd one another. Amen.
Three of the texts use the image of shepherd and sheep. Psalm 23 and John 10 picture the familiar relationship of trust that sheep exhibit toward the shep- herd. The shepherd places himself between the dependent sheep and the aggressive enemy to ward off destruction and exploitation. John 10 and 1 Peter 2 introduce the costly price paid for protection. The sheep’s safety comes with immense and undeserved sacrifice. In 1 Peter 2, the shepherd’s sacrifice makes possible the return of wayward sheep who have wandered away from the shepherd’s protection.
• Read Acts 2:42-47. How has joining with other believers in prayer, fellowship, and study strengthened your faith?
• Read Psalm 23. What narrow passages of life have you navigated? Upon whom did you depend during that time?
• Read 1 Peter 2:19-25. When have you encountered unjust suffering? What redemptive value did it hold for you?
• Read John 10:1-10. “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved.” How have you allowed Jesus to be the gate to your discipleship?
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