“Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” (Acts 2:43)
This week I’m giving a presentation on the Acts of the Apostles at a parish in our diocese. They have a wonderful intergenerational faith formation program, so I present to the adults while the preschoolers, grade-schoolers, and middle/high-schoolers have their own sessions. Tonight is the third and last of the sessions, so I’ve had lots of time to reflect on Acts while I give this presentation over and over again.
Acts is not my area of expertise – Scripture’s not even my forte (though I wish it were). But the faith formation director heard one of my talks on young adults and the church and wanted a dynamic speaker for their parish, so I agreed to give it a shot. Although a bit scary to jump in where I feel far from an expert, it was a good challenge and I was glad to spend some deliberate time with Scripture during Lent.
With this presentation, I wanted to explore how the book of Acts tells lots of stories of “everyday Christians” in the early church – not just the big names (Peter & Paul) and not just the big moments we all remember (Ascension, Pentecost, Saul getting blinded from heaven in his conversion). We read the stories of Lydia, Aquila & Priscilla, and Apollos, reflecting on how these men and women, single and married, working people, gave an important service to the church, no matter how small. I try to emphasize that Acts is not just a history book about the miracles that took place in the early church – the healings and raisings from the dead – but it’s a story about how God worked back then as today: through everyday people and events, as through the miracles.
But truthfully, I can still fall into the same trap, envying that somehow the Spirit must have been “closer” to the early followers. I read that line from Acts 2 above, and I get cynical: where is the awe in our church today? Where are the signs and wonders? Was it simpler, purer back then? Or are we simply blind to it in the frenzied world of today?
I read somewhere that we tend to think of miracles as the jaw-dropping events: the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the curing of the sick, the raising of the dead. But miracles in the New Testament also include this category of “signs and wonders.” And then I think about my own life, and I realize there are signs and wonders around me every single day – but I never think of them as miracles.
There is a little boy awakening to the world outside, who’s figured out ten new words this week and learned to spy “birdies” out the kitchen window.
There are small green shoots pushing up through soil now freed from of heaps of winter snow.
There are spring days bright with sunshine and filled with neighbors remerging outside after months of hibernation.
And then there is this:
And there are ten fingers and ten toes, four chambers of a beating heart, one small face that can already yawn.
And the astonishing technology that allows us to glimpse a world of mystery, the secret of how we are created.
And after a long, long winter of wondering if the misery was worth it, there is a deep, deep sense of relief and rejoicing from a mother who knew all along that it was.
Those are signs and wonders. Those are everyday miracles. Those are acts of God among us today, the presence and the power that gently remind us how the Spirit has indeed been with us all along.
And that fills me with awe.