Arising to Newness of Life: Four Narratives and Our Story (Sun. May 23)

The word of the day is “arise.”  The Lord has the power to lift the fallen and to command those who are lying prone in sickness, sin, and death to arise.  Today on this Sunday of the Paralytic, we learn about three incidents when those who are bound to their beds hear the command to  “Rise up.”  Two of these who heard the order to arise were paralytics.  The last and most spectacular example was the beloved believer Dorcas who had died.  In our reading of Acts 9:32-42,  Peter said, “Tabitha, arise,” and she opened her eyes, looked at Peter, and sat up (OSB vs. 40). Today we interpret these miracles of raising up the lifeless in the light of…

How to Be a Barnabas Who Introduces Others to the Fellowship of Faith (Sat. May 22)

The word of the day is “brought.” If we are strangers to a group, it is helpful to have someone who will introduce us to its members.  For instance, it was necessary for the newly changed Saul (Paul) to be introduced to the circle of believers in Jerusalem.  Today in our reading of Acts 9:20-31, we find that the believers in Jerusalem were hesitant to receive the former persecutor of the church into their fellowship.  But Luke reports that a “good man” named Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.  Today we learn the importance of those who act in the role of Barnabas and introduce strangers to the faith in Christ and His church. Our reading begins…

The Life-Transforming Power of an Encounter with Christ (Fri. May 21)

The word of the day is “vessel.”  By the grace of God, some of the most hostile opponents of Christianity have become its most ardent followers.  For instance, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was raised as an Orthodox Christian.  But in his youth, he turned against Orthodoxy and embraced the atheism of Marxist-Leninism.  Yet during his imprisonment in the Soviet Gulag, he returned to his faith and became a fervent believer.  Today we commemorate another example, the pagan Emperor Constantine, who converted to Christianity and with his pious mother Helen sponsored the flowering of the church in the Roman empire. However, today in our reading of Acts 8:40-9:19, we read about the most prominent of all enemies of Christ who embraced the faith…

How the Holy Spirit Directs Our Lives and Witness (Thurs. May 20)

The word of the day is “go.”  If we look below the surface of events, we discover that what seems to be happenstance is directed by an invisible hand.  In our reading of Acts 8:26-39, we hear the story of the conversion and baptism of an Ethiopian official who is returning from Jerusalem o his homeland in Gaza.  But Luke, the historian, unveils the divine guidance that moves the action forward to its conclusion in the eunuch’s baptism.  The historian writes,  “An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip and said, ‘Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes from Jerusalem to Gaza’” (OSB vs. 26).  And when Philip saw the chariot of the official, the Holy…

What Is True Repentance? (Wed. May 19)

The word of the day is “repent.”  We usually think of repentance as a change of heart and mind.  But repentance can be insincere, pretended, or done for the wrong reason.  In today’s reading of Acts 8:18-25, we read the case of a man named Simon who seemed to repent.  After Peter condemned his wickedness, Simon said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me (OSB vs. 24).  This plea seemed to indicate that he had turned around from his sinful ways.  However, if we read this passage carefully, we discover his contrition was not genuine. Thus, from this negative example, we learn about the nature of true repentance.…

The Transformation of Evil into Good (Tues. May 18)

The word of the day is “Samaria .”  The Lord can take evil and use it for good.  Today in our reading of Acts 8:5-17, we find that fierce persecution has scattered the first believers.  One of them, the Deacon Philip, went to Samaria, and as he went, he preached the Gospel.  In response, the Samaritans eagerly “received the Word of God” (OSB vs.14).  Thus, what seemed to be a setback for the early church advanced its mission.  Today we consider how God uses the worst in our lives for the best. The stoning of Stephen was a crisis for the growing Christian movement.  Immediately after it, we read, “At that time a great persecution arose against the church which…

How Our Faith May Be Confirmed (Mon. May 17)

The word of the day is “so.”  Nowadays, people are disposed to believe many things with little evidence to confirm them.  Yet when it comes to religion, doubt, cynicism, and indifference to the truth prevail.  Today in our reading of Acts 6:8-7:5; 47-60, the apostles face the Jewish council.  And the high priest asks, “Are these things so? (OSB vs. 7:1). Just as the Jewish officials and Pilate demanded that Jesus answer the false accusations against Him (Matthew 27:12; Mark 15:4), the temple court challenges Stephen to answer the false charge of his opponents (vs. 7:1).  But there is a deeper question behind the challenge, “Is it “so”?  Is what Stephen is saying and doing true?  In today’s study, we…

The Origins of a Continuing Historic Ministry (Sun. May 16)

The word of the day is “appoint.”  Today’s society believes that there always is a better way.   Invention will improve anything.  Innovation will make everything function more efficiently and easily.  However, the foundations of Holy Tradition in the church are enduring.  One of these is the church order of ordained clergy.  Today in our reading of Act 6:1-7, we read of the establishment of the order of deacons in the church. The twelve apostles said, “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint for this business [of administration and caring]”  (OSB vs.  3). Based on this model, our deacons continue to serve the church today.…

Witness Without Compromise (Sat. May 15)

The word of the day is “obey.”  In every revolution, there is a moment when the rebels defy authority.  Without the courage of some to do so, there is no change. There is only compliance. Today we find in our reading of Acts 5:21-33 that such a moment occurred when the apostles again appeared before the high priest and members of the Sadducees, the religious sect that ruled the temple.  When the high priest sternly reminded Peter that he was told to cease speaking of “this Name [of Jesus”] (OSB vs. 28), Peter was defiant.  “We ought to obey God rather than men,” he said (OSB vs. 29).  That was the decisive moment that would free the new Christian movement…

When Dishonesty Threatens Our Oneness in Christ (Fri. May 14)

The word of the day is “fear.”  We may have a rosy picture of the life of the first believers who were filled with the Holy Spirit, bold in the proclamation of the Gospel, united in a common life, and fearless in the face of arrest, imprisonment, and death.  Yet, in today’s reading of Acts 5:1-11, we hear a note of sobering realism.  Luke reports the first instance of troubles in the community.  As a divine punishment for cheating and lying, a couple fell dead at the feet of the apostles.  Luke, the writer of Acts, summarizes the somber response of the faithful, “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things” (OSB 5:11).…