I spent the past two months preaching through selected stories from Acts. Sometimes I don’t know what a sermon is about until I’ve preached it. Same goes with a sermon series. I wish I could say I’m able to think so far ahead that I know why I’m preaching a particular series, but sometimes I’m surprised by where the series ends up going.
I picked Acts because I thought it would be a great first sermon series at my new church. Churches of Christ tend to think they have Acts all figured out. We know what it says about baptism and taking communion on the first day of the week and appointing deacons and elders and . . . Wait a second. Is that really what Acts is about?
No. And that’s why I chose to do a series of teachings from it. Because there is so much more in Acts than telling us why someone should be baptized or when communion should be taken or how elders and deacons should be picked.
I thought it would be fun to work through some of the familiar stories, while asking a different set of questions than have traditionally been asked when churches from our heritage study Acts.
One theme that emerged as I preached the series was how much of Acts is about religious people being wrong. Wrong in their understanding of Jesus’ true identity (the Jews in Jerusalem who crucified Jesus), wrong in their understanding of God’s will (Saul, who believed God wanted him to persecute Jesus’ followers), wrong in their understanding of God’s desire for the Gentiles (Peter, and by extension the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem).
Over and over God has to show people who think they have him all figured out just how wrong they are and how much they need to repent. One reason the story in Acts keeps moving forward is because the church is willing to repent and keep learning and growing and developing a deeper understanding of the social, financial, and ethical implications of the gospel.
There are plenty of conversion stories in Acts, but one of the most overlooked is the continuing conversion of the church. God is always ahead of the church, leading it, sometimes forcing it to go where it would rather not. As the story develops, the church keeps growing, both numerically and in its understanding of what God aims to do in the world through the good news of the risen Jesus.
Which makes me wonder: in what ways are we currently wrong?
As Kathryn Schulz points out in her wonderful book, Being Wrong, the problem with being wrong is it feels exactly like being right, until you realize you’re wrong.
Right now we’re wrong about something. We’ve missed something big. Something that in a hundred years will cause our great-great-grandchildren to read our history and wonder, “How could they have not seen how wrong they were?” (While not realizing they’re still wrong about a few things themselves.)
What are we currently getting wrong?
How will God get our attention to show us the error of our ways?