Acts 29: A Never Ending Gospel
Bruce G. Epperly
The final words of Acts of the Apostles describe the Apostle Paul teaching and preaching from prison "without hindrance." The message of Acts from start to finish is that God's good news is unfinished and unhindered; it breaks down the barriers of alienation, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. The good news of God’s presence in the world breaks down the separation of mind, body, and spirit; of contemplation and action; of mysticism and mission; and of reason and ecstasy.
Today, we are writing our own Acts of the Apostles in the ongoing journey of Christian faith and mission. In partnership with God, we are the creators of an unfinished gospel that lives on in our lives and witness. For the author of Acts and for us, divine inspiration does not end with the closing of the canon. God is still speaking, still revealing, still inspiring, and still healing, and we are part of the never ending story of God's movements in our lives and in the world. Like those first Christians, we are making it up as we go along, creating our faith traditions in concert with divine inspiration and our personal, cultural, and planetary context. Like them, we – that is, progressive, moderate, and open-spirited evangelical Christians - are at the margins; our voices are seldom heard on network television or cable news, muted by our own reluctance as well as the strident voices of those who claim to represent Jesus today. But, our story goes on: in fact, the margins may in fact be the frontiers that call us to adventure.
Today, we are creating Christian faith as we go along - a new vision of faith, open to diversity, embracing pluralism, discovering the promise of post-modernism in small stories and life-changing experiences that evolve into a life-transforming faith. Our faith stories honor and nurture experience, but also balance experience with agile and innovative theological reflection in dialogue with the novelties of our time. Acts 29, the unwritten chapter of Acts, is our chapter. Just as God calls every generation to be faithful in its time, God calls us to be faithful "for just such a time as this." This is our time of possibility, adventure, risk, and vocation. This is our time to create, in the dynamic divine-human call and response, a lively spirited-centered, pluralistic, evolving and emerging faith. Our faith is not based on labels that confine, but stature that includes and our emerging and evolving faith embraces Pentecostal ecstasy, evangelical intimacy, moderate rationality, and progressive open-endedness. We are spirit-centered in our openness to following the Spirit's guidance and then creating along with the Spirit new circles of healing and transformation.
This morning, I heard Rev. Harry Knox of the, Director of the Religion and Faith Program of the Human Rights Commission speak of a "fourth great awakening" as the emergence of the gifts of LGBT people for the church. I agree with Rev. Knox’s affirmation, for this awakening of the gifts of LGBT people is emerging alongside a new integration of mysticism and mission, spiritual healing and medical accessibility, tradition and experimentation, theological reflection and emotional ecstasy; all elements of an ever-widening circle of love. These movements reflect a holistic vision of embodied, emerging, evolving, and liberating faith.
Yes, the story of Acts 29 is still being written. It is your story and mine - it is the story of all those who awaken to God's unhindered Spirit and claim our role as partners in the never ending divine-human journey that lies ahead.
Bruce Epperly is Professor of Practical Theology and Director of Continuing Education at Lancaster Theological Seminary. He is the author of 17 books, including Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living and Tending to the Holy: The Practice of the Presence of God in Ministry.