Extravagant Welcome for All
The Acts of the Apostles is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke, written in the same style by the same author. (At least that’s what the author claims, and scholars haven’t found reason to doubt it.)
Written a few decades after the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Luke and Acts both have a bit of a rosy glow to them. The rougher edges of Mark’s earlier gospel (like the disciples repeatedly coming off as numbskulls, or rustic sentence structure) are polished up. There’s a heartwarming quality to these books that tell of Jesus’ life and teaching (Gospel of Luke) and the first decades of the church (Acts of the Apostles).
There is also a clear thread of justice in these books. Luke balances parables so that male and female characters are both represented. His Beatitudes address physical poverty rather than spiritual poverty. Women actually have names. And wealth is always intended for generous sharing, lest it become an impediment to faithfulness.
One of Jesus’ disciples, Philip, features in Acts as one who preached the good news in non-Jewish communities. While nothing is written of him in Luke’s gospel, he does appear several times in John’s gospel; his name is Greek in origin, and he is said to have been from Bethsaida, which was predominantly Greek in population and culture. Having Philip as one of the twelve disciples is already pushing the boundaries of who’s in and who’s not. Once severe persecution begins against the early believers in and around Jerusalem, Philip goes to Samaria — the land of not-good-enough Jewish-Gentile “crossbreed” occupants. He preaches and gains converts, but his work there comes under some scrutiny; the bigwigs in Jersusalem send Peter and John to take the ministry to the next step.
Bit by bit, the boundaries of who’s in, who’s out are being stretched. This coming Sunday, we read of the story of the first sexual minority and possibly the first African becoming a follower of Jesus, thanks to Philip, in Acts 8:26-40. Read the story; ponder; and join us to explore how this came to happen, and what it has to do with us, this Sunday, May 3, 10:00 a.m.