Confessing Christ Bloggers
Jun 19

Written by: gfackre
6/19/2008 9:27 AM

The Community of Hope

From the light of the ascended Lord descends the first luminous signs of a new arrival in our midst. “When the day of Pentecost had come….divided tongues , as of fire, appeared among them….” (Acts 2:1, 3) In this next chapter of the Story a community envisioning and embodying Hope comes to be. “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young me shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams….” (Acts 2:17)

The signs of this communal Presence, “the Spirit of the Son of the Father” (Jurgen Moltmann) are four-fold as described in the events surrounding the birth of the Body of Christ on earth.

First comes the telling of the Story in the church’s first sermon by Peter. At its center, he says, we find Hope crucified, yes, “But God raised him up….Being therefore exalted at the right hand of the Father, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out that that you might both see and hear.” (Acts 2:P24, 33) Thus, the sign of the Spirit that marks the being of the church : kerygma, the proclamation of the gospel.

Next comes the celebrating of the Story. “So those who welcomed his message were baptized...and…they devoted themselves to the…breaking of bread and prayers.” (Acts 2: 41, 42). These sacramental signs of the Spirit are the visibilities that accompany the audibilities of the Great Narrative, the washing and eating that keep company with the preaching and teaching of the word of Hope. Together they are the means of grace and heart of worship given to keep the Body alive, leitourgia.

Where the Story is told and celebrated aright, there follow yet other signs. Under
the Spirit’s impact this community with its eye on the life together of the final Hope to be “had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2: 45) So the faithful church today, as at its inception, is recognizable by its sharing and caring for the neighbor in need, however short of the radical mirroring of the End that the first community embodied in its modeling of diakonia.

As the final Hope is that life together—shalom—that the triune God wills and is, and that the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ was, cannot but be manifest in the authentic Pentecostal community of hope. So “They devoted themselves to the apostles’…fellowship…as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts….” (Acts 2: 43, 46) Thus the ecclesial koinonia reflects the divine Koinonia.

As all these signs in Acts 2 constitute the nature of the church birthed at Pentecost, so its mission is set forth in Acts 3 and 4. The latter is to be seen in the outreach of what transpired in the inreach of the Spirit in the community. Thus the proclamation and celebration of the gospel to and before those beyond the community’s borders, the “good deed done to someone who was sick” outside the doors of the temple, and a life together seen which prompted the wonderment, “See how those Christians love one another!”

Are these four signs of the Spirit—the telling, celebrating, doing and being of the Story-- the same as those later identified in the creed as church’s four attributes: one, holy, catholic and apostolic? Are the first two—kerygma and leitourgia, Word and Sacrament, the two “marks of the church” believed by the Reformation to be singularly definitive and foundational for the good works of other two, diakonia and koinonia ? So the writer has argued in a previous volume of the Christian Story series, The Church: Signs of the Spirit and Signs of the Times .

What next of the outpouring of the Spirit to the wider world? Chapter 6, next in the Story has to do with “redemption applied,” the work of the third Person of the Trinity in a grace abounding and saving.

Copyright ©2008 Gabriel Fackre

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