On your mark…get set…go! We are going to start a new journey tomorrow together. I think I need to warn you that it is going to be very, very different from our first journey together. Reading through the Gospels is one thing, but reading about the early church and figuring out the root of our theology is something completely different. We all feel so much more familiar with the words of Jesus and he rarely says anything that offends us or throws us off guard. That is not the case with Paul.
Paul is going to take us to topics that divide us. He will say things that upset us. He is going to address issues that we would rather leave uncovered. Wait, who is this Paul? We will be introduced to him in Acts, our first book that we will begin reading tomorrow. Keep in mind as we look at Paul the impact that he has upon Scripture and upon what we believe. He wrote the majority of the New Testament. This is significant. Paul’s words have shaped what we believe almost on equal terms to Jesus’ words. I hope you feel comfortable as we make distinctions between the approach that Paul takes in his letters and the approach that Jesus took in his teachings.
Also, keep in mind that I do not believe that Paul and Jesus ever contradict each other. They complement each other in the most exquisite and, at times, enigmatic ways. We will be starting in Acts of the Apostles which describes the earliest church as it was a fledgling community still meeting in the synagogues and still being confused as a random offshoot from Judaism. We often have an idyllic perspective on the early church. We think it was perfect and so we often use it as the model after which we ought to strive. That simply is not the case. We see quarrels between the church Fathers and we see them get angry with each other and split up. When Jesus prays: “That they may be one” in John 17:21 it was one of his most passionate prayers because he knew from the very beginning that we would not be one. We will be able to speak about the importance of church unity while still recognizing that our ultimate goal is not unity but rather loyalty to the Gospel. But the two are not mutually exclusive.
Okay, I can’t wait to get started tomorrow. But hang on, these 90 days will take you to places you have never been before in your faith. Hang on because the ride can be bumpy through these books. The turbulence could upset you, but if that is the case, buckle up your seat belt and hang on because in 90+ days we will be landing. Enjoy the flight!