Painting All: A Bible Study for Asbury's August 1-2 Worship
by Rev. Lee Johnson
august 1, 2020
As I study the Bible and ponder its words, I often look to see if an artist has ever captured the story I am reading: Moses on the mountain, the widow feeding Elijah, Ezekiel’s spinning wheel of God. Doing so broadens my perspective of the written word, especially when I find differing artistic takes. Acts 2.42-47 captures a picture of a first community of Christian believers. Inspired by the Day of Pentecost, often painted by various artists, Acts 2.42-47 adds important details to what the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can accomplish: all who believed were together, having all things in common, giving to all who had need, for the goodwill of all. Interestingly, this moment is often used to inspire a fall church stewardship campaign. I’ve seen many a good stewardship logo using Acts 2.42-47. But, an artist’s rendering of those verses would require more - an eye for all. How do you paint all?
Behind the picture of an Acts 2 faith community, seemingly at peace with itself, was restlessness, even violence. Christianity was still seen as a sect of the Jewish tradition. The Roman army was on the move, capturing Jerusalem in 66 AD, and destroying the Temple in 70 AD. Soon, Jews would turn on each other as the sect of Jewish Christians sought to establish its own authority. And, within that authority, was grave disagreement over the meaning of 'all' - did it include the Gentiles, those who had lived outside of Israel? The word all did not come easy. People literally threw stones at each other arguing over all, that long hoped for place of peace and living, inspired by a Holy Spirit that fell equally upon all. It didn’t take long to scratch the surface of all and reveal the angst of others. What do you suppose accounts for “the other’s” discomfort when it comes to the word 'all'?
This weekend at Asbury, we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It’s a long-standing tradition of United Methodists to invite all to the table, reflecting that Acts 2 picture and, as we say at Asbury, "All Means All.” Yet, scratch the surface of all, and you will find the angst of all the others. As we seek to further a fair and just church, restlessness and pain emerge. Does all really mean all, even the Gentiles? We are not far from that first community of Christian believers. Still, the Holy Spirit fell upon all. So, let’s start painting. How might the Church more fully embrace all? What difference would that make for a country and world that struggles with all?
READ BEYOND THE STORY:
Take a moment and read Acts 15, which tells of the first early church council, The Council of Jerusalem. After heated debate, the council votes to “admit” the once outsider Gentiles into the Jewish sect of Christianity. Peter’s speech helps sway the day: “And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them (the Gentiles) by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.” Okay, it is “them and us” language, but Peter is really talking about all. How would you paint a “them and us” kind of all? Can you? What images come to mind? Does it have meaning for us today?
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Saturday, August 1 at 5:00 pm
“The Holy Spirit fell upon all.”