Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hearing God in Acts 2:42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
I was preaching on this passage the other night, and I began to reflect on the term "signs and wonders". Often, instead of using the term signs and wonders, we use the term miracles to describe the supernatural acts of God in this world. When people are healed, we say that they have received a miracle. Or when we narrowly avoid an accident, we say that God provided for us in a "miraculous" way.
I think, however, that for theological purposes, it is instructive to listen to the language of "signs and wonders". Why? Because we tend to think of miracles as something we get for us, something that perhaps we receive because we requested it and merited God's favor. Even if this is not true, the miracle becomes about what was done for ME on my behalf.
The root of the language of signs and wonders comes from a different place. It speaks of the supernatural acts of God on behalf of his people, but it does so with a focus on the glory of God instead of the righteousness, blessedness, or receivership of one who received the gift. In the New Testament, it is very clear that the Jesus performed supernatural acts for one of two reasons. First, to extend his compassion. Or, better, as an extension of his loving nature or loving heart. But, even more than that, the "miraculous" was given to communities and persons in the New Testament as a sign that points to God. The purpose of the miraculous in the New Testament is so that people will see the glory of God, and recognize his grace and goodness to humanity. When the disciples ask Jesus why the blind man is unsighted in John 9, Jesus says that is not because of sin, but so that God's glory may be revealed in him.
Often we pray and hope for supernatural intervention of Almighty God in our life. And some theologies would even say that a lack of God's intervention belies a lack of righteousness on behalf of the person praying.
But, what if God's glory is made manifest in us through our ability to faithfully endure suffering? What if the power of God is demonstrated more powerfully through our death than through our continued living? I believe this is possible and probable. And I believe that this is what the language of signs and wonders points us toward.
Thoughts for today

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