I have become a student again. (Okay, I’ve never stopped being a student. I intentionally and consistently find a space where I can glean knowledge from others.) I am currently engaged in a study of the biblical book of Acts being offered at a sister church. The pastor made a statement that fired up my brain’s neurotransmitters, and they simply haven’t calmed down. I think I’ll be living with the simple—but profound—insight for a while. You might as well live with it too. Commenting on the Pentecost experience in Acts 2, the pastor said, “The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. The disciples were changed, but the world they lived in remained the same. It was no different the next morning.”
This is the reality of all faith experience. God gave the Torah (Law) to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. They were changed, but the world they lived in, wandered in, and struggled in did not change. Jesus was resurrected on Easter morning, but the world around his followers did not change. The Spirit descended upon the apostles at Pentecost, but they walked out of the room into a world that had not changed. Our worship, our faith, our spirituality (choose your word), transforms us to live in the world. It does not necessarily and immediately change the world.
The work of the church remains the same regardless of the world’s condition. It is our challenge—according to the Book of Acts—to receive the power of God’s Spirit into our lives and then bear witness to the power of the gospel—God’s good news. We walk alongside people in crisis to assure them of the comforting, liberating, powerful presence of God. World powers will come and go. Constitutional interpretations will shift with electoral cycles. Supreme Court decisions will reshape cultural landscape. Economic trends will move from feast to famine. Regardless of the world’s condition, the work of the church will remain the same. In the best of times and in the worst of times, we compassionately walk alongside people and bear witness to the presence of God in the same way Jesus walked alongside people in the ruthlessly Roman-ruled first century. On Easter Sunday morning when Jesus stepped out of the tomb, the world had not changed…but we have…