Well, there is power, and then, there is real power. The first is the kind that is very familiar to us all. It comes in many forms, like: physical strength, political position, wealth, and social status. These are earthly forms of power and we have to admit that they have a great deal of influence in the world. Sometimes those earthy powers are used for the good, but all too often, they are used for some kind of temporary, personal gain and they often have negative consequences on those affected by it. When such powers are used in this latter fashion, they are often arbitrary, they are generally capricious, and they are usually dangerous to the powerless.
Luke is presenting us with another form of power here in this passage from Acts. It is a supernatural power, a divine power. This power is not disturbed by earthly powers. It is beyond such finite, temporary, and ultimately weak things. This is the power of God, the power that created all things, seen and unseen. This is the power that let go of equality with God, that took on human form, died, and rose again from the dead. This is the power that conquered sin and death, once and for all. This is the power of God; the power of the Holy Spirit who is, “the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.” (Nicene Creed) It is this power that descended upon the Twelve hiding in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. It was the Holy Spirit who came upon them as tongues of flame, lighting the darkness, pushing back all their fears, giving them the ability to speak in all of the languages of the world, so that they might be able to, “be witnesses [not only] in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and [here is where this passage speaks to us today] to the ends of the earth.”
It is clear that God’s word is true, for what this passage initiated 2,015 years ago has spread to every corner of the earth. The witnessing of the gospel of Jesus Christ has not been easy. The Greek word for witness is “martyr.” There were many who witnessed to the faith with their very lives then and there are still many who are doing do today. Though it was often difficult, and many times seemingly impossible, the faith in Jesus Christ that began to be spread in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria in those very earliest days, would spread across the Mediterranean world on the courageous preaching of Paul and others in a few short years. There is no other experience to compare to it. Christianity then and now, has no earthly intentions for empire, it did not and does not go about converting the world by the sword in the name of God. Oh, it has had its fouled up moments, and the temptation to earthly powers have not been unknown in the Church’s human history, and yet, the witness of the gospel, is still alive and well today. It has survived so many attacks, both within and without, yet its message still has the power to convert the most hardened of hearts today. Why? Because the divine power of the Holy Spirit has descended upon it and upon all those who truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord and the Savior of the world.
The Power of the Holy Spirit is nothing less than the creative, saving, power of God in the world. It is never destructive. It always causes those it has come upon to witness to the love of God through loving kindness in all that they do and say. The Holy Spirit gives those it has descended upon, the power to witness to the poor with hospitality, mercy and compassion. When we receive the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to speak in the “tongues” of loving challenge, of generous invitation, of liberating forgiveness. The Holy Spirit’s power makes us truly humble servants of God to all who suffer here on earth. The Holy Spirit’s power makes the Church a place of welcome to all, a home for the lost and the found. The power of the Holy Spirit in us, and in the Church, is the only power that can bring about the kingdom of God here on earth.
Lord, open our minds, our hearts, and our souls to receive you again and again. Come upon us each day, in each moment, so that others might see you in our words and our deeds. Encourage us. Strengthen us. Make us your good and faithful servants to each other and to all you call your own. We pray this in the power and the promise of Jesus’ name. Amen!
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