Over the last couple of days these first three verses of the The Acts of the Apostles have been my companions. I have read them in different translations, read and responded to the other blog entries here, carried them and been carried by them through the day. A sort of extended Lectio Divina has been taking place.
At first sight these verses seemed rather inconsequential but as I read and reread them allowing individual words to stay with me I realised how many reflections they gave rise to, how much potential they contained. They became a little window opening up upon a vast landscape.
It occurred to me that they had a creed-like quality though I wasn’t sure why until I was struck by how many foundational ideas Luke calls upon.
There is ‘Jesus’, the ascension (‘he was taken up to heaven’), the ‘Holy Spirit’, the ‘apostles whom he had chosen’, the ‘passion’, the resurrection (‘he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs’) and ‘the kingdom of God’. Phew, he covers a lot in three apparently unpromising verses.
On one level I can read this as a sort of ‘proto creed’ establishing the ‘orthodoxy’ of the writer and the account to follow….Asserting this is no gnostic text. The stable doctrinal stage is being set before the rather marvellous narrative follows with the coming of the wild, ever surprising Holy Spirit in rushing winds and tongues of flame.
It is partly the fact that these verses are crammed with words which carry primary significance in the Christian faith which accounts for the richness of reflection they can give rise to. But also from the text in relation to the quality, time and mode of attention given; the action of the Holy Spirit upon the reader; the richness of personal experience; the traditions of our faith communities and the Spirit-drenched quality of Scripture itself. All of these can combine to deeply nourish the heart which has learned to listen.