Greetings Epworth Church,
The book of Acts is the story of what happened to the church after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. It’s the “Now what?” book of the Bible, filled with stories of faithful people as they struggled to figure out a new way of living after Jesus physically left them. Acts is filled with fascinating and sometimes funny stories about how to be the church.
One of those stories is found in Acts 16, where Paul and Silas, two disciples of Jesus, had been imprisoned for casting out a demon in a slave. While followers of Jesus weren’t a military threat, their views did not conform to those of the Roman Empire. They were a Jewish messianic movement that was inclusive to Jews and Gentiles. As Paul and Silas are imprisoned in Acts 16, an earthquake throws open the prison doors and unshackles all the prisoners. You would think Paul and Silas would immediately escape, but instead they stay to help the jailer. Paul and Silas risk their own life to develop a relationship with the jailer and end up spending some time at his home. The entire jailer’s household is baptized, simply because Paul and Silas dared to develop a connection.
Perhaps the book of Acts is the exact book we need to read as a church family as we might be asking the question, “Now what?” following these unprecedented 18 months. There have been many changes and challenges we have faced and yet there is excitement as we figure out our next steps. In July we held an Epworth Church meeting where 25 faithful members of our community came together to begin to talk about those next steps. We talked about the challenges and blessings of the past 18 months but we also celebrated the ways in which we were able to be the church during a global pandemic. We now offer live stream worship, a greater social media presence, use Zoom for Bible studies and meetings, utilize our beautiful grove for more outdoor worship and events, and created a special place in our sanctuary for children during worship.
Beginning September 19th, I will begin a sermon series (and an accompanying Bible study) based on those fascinating stories in Acts about how the very first disciples figured out how to be the church. So many of those stories are about courageous and ordinary disciples who were simply willing to create relationships with people by sharing their testimony. May we journey together through the book of Acts and allow the Holy Spirit to continue to inspire us to be the church in a world that is troubled and uncertain. May we find ways to connect and re-connect with God and one another. May we, like Paul and the earliest disciples, “welcome all who [come to us], proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hinderance.” (Acts 28: 30-31)