Month one (of Mission)

No Nerd Alert on this One! Normal People are encouraged to read! (-:

Have you ever seen the film Saving Private Ryan? The opening scene is pretty unforgettable (even if quite violent). For several minutes, what the viewer sees is a non-stop barrage of bullets in slow-motion, being fired by Nazi machine guns on a Normandy beach on D-Day in World War II. The bullets are coming at the American soldiers, seemingly from every direction, and it is all that the Allied soldiers can do just to keep pushing forward, attempting to “dodge the bullets,” hoping somehow to emerge unscathed or at least still breathing.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, this is kind of how I felt (if only a little bit) about month one of Christ Church South. After two soft launches, a Grand Opening, a Christmas Pageant, a Christmas Day Eucharist, and a New Years Day service—all in a building that was previously untouched and unused—I (quite literally) still do not know how to turn the lights on! (At least not in every room!)

I realize that sounds strange, but it is true enough. There were so many “moving parts,” so many untested procedures, so many potential issues, so many unanswered questions, so many partially trained acolytes, so many new visitors whose names were not yet known … at times it did feel a bit chaotic.

And yet, we made it! And it was most assuredly a Holy Chaos, for many, many people tasted the Kingdom of God and the love of Christ in a new way.

I knew that the first month of launching Christ Church South would be intense. No surprise there. More difficult to anticipate was how wonderful it would be. How all the “troops” would perform tirelessly and with grace (way too many to name!). How satisfying it would be to preach in a new venue. How so many visitors would come as a result of the big sign, of the emerging building, and of personal invitation. (I am certain that we have had over sixty visiting household units so far.)

And now … now, comes the real moment that I have been waiting for. For now, it is time to do the real work. Now that we have successfully launched (by the grace of God), our true labor begins. The real work of the Gospel. The mundane, day to day activity of the body of Christ.

Praying with the saints. Encouraging the sheep. Unleashing many gifts. Empowering leadership. Giving away power. Inviting the outsiders in. Making disciples. Teaching. Preaching. Baptizing. Celebrating. Singing. Kneeling. Bowing.

Truly, all of that is what I have been waiting for. And the reality is, it is anything but mundane, for it satisfies the deepest longings of the human heart, and it is, by the power of the Holy Spirit, ultimately unstoppable.

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Kool-Aid Institutional & Familial

For many traditional Episcopalians confirmation is somewhat normal. It is a familiar event, a familiar notion, a familiar thought. It is just something that one does in the course of one’s normal life. It is mainstream.

Indeed, what a blessing that for many this is the case. And yet for whole other large swaths of contemporary culture, nothing could be more bizarre and foreign than participating in a “special worship service” in which a man dressed in flamboyant robes with a pointy hat that looks like something from a comic book lays hands on you and claims to have brought you into …

… into what? Into an institution?

Now, I happen to believe that institutions are a good thing. Without institutions life unravels. Without institutions individuals are left exposed to the potentially oppressive manipulations of state power. Institutions are among the “mediating connections” that bind people together in society. All of this is very “meet and right.”

And yet, the specific characteristic that leaves many in our day with an anti-institutional taste in their mouths is that, all too often, the true motive for institutional activity is mere self-preservation. Why have a meeting? Why have a membership drive? Why raise money? Simply to promote the institution and its survival.

And so it is that, when scores of new friends from all across Tyler & East Texas (most of whom are “young” by Episcopal Church standards) have entered into the hallowed halls of Christ Church over the last three or four years to see what has been going on here, they are confronted by many and diverse aspects of an institutional life that it is foreign. There is a foreign hierarchy. There is a foreign vocabulary. There is a foreign, maze-like building. There are foreign gestures and traditions. There is a foreign ethos and culture. All of these foreign dimensions teeter on the brink of reinforcing the suspicion that one has just entered into … the bowels of an institutional monster.

And yet, there is so much more. You see, my mind is blown that people are “drinking our Kool-Aid.” But what they are drinking is not so much the new hierarchy and tradition and gestures. I do believe in all of that fantastic stuff, and I am confident that, over time, they will, too. But the main thing that folks are imbibing is not a new institution but a new family.

A new family that sticks together. A new family that is messy. A new family that is honest. A new family that does not agree on everything, but is absolutely committed to doing life together. A new family in which Christ is loved & served but not forced onto people. A new family where believing follows belonging.

All of this is both classically Anglican / Episcopalian and “postmodern.” It is “a new way of being Christian that is very, very old.”

Our new members of Christ Church who confirmed last Sunday … for many of them they are joining not so much a new institution, but a new family.

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Charles Taylor & the “Two Speeds”

In A Secular Age Charles Taylor discusses the issue of the “two speeds” in the church. That is, at least since the rise of monasticism & St. Benedict, there has been in the church a kind of distinction between the ordinary “lay people” (Lat. laicus) and the more “spiritually advanced” members of holy orders, religious and “secular.”

What Taylor is doing in this book is (among other things) giving a kind of genealogical account of what intellectual and cultural developments led to the kind of secular world in which we live, in which (for example) atheism seems more obvious to people than historic Christian faith. The question is “How did the secular world come to be?”

One of the developments which Taylor points to is the attempt on the part of various and sundry reform movements, particularly throughout the medieval period, to “flatten out” the various distinctions among “religious” people and the ordinary secular folk. Of course, a primary movement like this is the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.

Now anyone familiar with Taylor will know that he is not given to brash, unqualified positions. Rather, especially in a work like this one, he tries to be descriptive and nuanced. Thus it is at times a challenge to discern the precise role he imputes to such movements, let alone to detect his final evaluation of them.

And yet, it is difficult to resist the c0nclusion that such reform movements played a complicit role in the rise of the modern world, and to the extent, then, that this book is a subtle and complex critique of modern secularism, such movements are viewed with suspicion.

This account resonates with me. It is easy for me to lay much blame for the contemporary marginalization of theology and church at the feet of the Reformation in particular, although for many years I subscribed to the opposite view that the original Protestant movements (and subsequent communities which were loyal to them, such as British Presbyterianism) could be viewed as a kind of “counter-Enlightenment,” almost like a reformed & renewed version of medieval Christendom.

Yet this has not been my position for several years now, at least since my conversion to Anglicanism. I cannot now resist the temptation to view the 16th century Reformation as an essential ingredient of the rise of western modernity, and Taylor’s point about the Reformation’s attempt to flatten out the “two speeds” makes a lot of sense to me.

And yet, I do agree with John Milbank and others in Radical Orthodoxy that this is an example of a movement which – however destructive and ill-conducted – was in fact reaction against a real problem in the Catholic Church. That is, the ultimate cause or problem is, as always, within the Church’s “own house.” (Note that RO and similar movements are, when at their best, not just a critique of modern secularism but also of the conditions within the church and within Christendom which gave rise to modern secularism.)

In other words, even if Taylor is right to criticize the flattening out of the two speeds, it does not follow from this that the “dual speed arrangement” was legitimate in medieval Christian culture. Rather, the resources were always there in the Church, perhaps, to overcome this false dichotomy and to empower all the faithful to live the life of Christ to the fullest, in the deepest possible ways. (Two possible counterpoints would be what some would regard as the failure of halakhic Judaism, and Paul’s injunction to celibacy in I Cor 7.)

To this end, I appeal to Scripture, namely the Psalms and the “new covenant” which is described in Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 10.

The psalms are replete with a celebration of delighting in the law of the LORD, and this certainly does not seem to be limited to some “higher class.” Rather, all people chanted such Psalms as Psalms 19 and 119 in the gathered assembly of the Temple (note that it is the simple who are made wise by the law in Ps 19:7):

Psa. 19:7       The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;

Psa. 119:1     Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD!
Psa. 119:18     Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
Psa. 119:29     Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
Psa. 119:34     Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Psa. 119:44     I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever…. (ESV)

In addition it is difficult for me to envision some kind of “remedial level” of spirituality as compatible with the “new covenant” language of Jeremiah 31, which implies a full penetration of intimate “cutting” in covenant with the Spirit of God.

“And they will not teach each other or say to one another ‘know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Heb 8:11, quoting Jer 31:34, NRSV)

Seems like “one speed” to me.

 

 

 

 

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Church Planting (Episcopal Ruminations)

For a while I’ve been convinced that what the church planting edge of the Episcopal Church should do is become more “eastern orthodox.” The Episcopal Church needs to be “strangified” for newer generations. Hence, this.

And yet … please take 3 mins and watch this video. This is the kind of church plant that I find compelling and viable.

Why? B/c there is a strong, clear, passionate, authentic Gospel-driven vision which is being proclaimed & articulated boldly by gifted, intense leaders.

This is what we need, IMO.

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Delighting in the Arcane

I recently stumbled across something which truly animated my soul (to dabble in prolixity). ‘Tis the following, one of “twenty-four theses of Radical Orthodoxy:”

As much as the secular, most pietisms are disliked since, as advocating the ‘spiritual’ they assume there is a secular. Radical Orthodoxy rejoices in the unavoidably and authentically arcane, mysterious, and fascinatingly difficult. It regards this preference as democratic, since in loving mystery, it wishes also to diffuse and disseminate it. We relish the task of sharing a delight in the hermetic with uninitiated others.

Wow. I’ve long sensed myself to be something of an evangelist. Not the kind, of course, that stands on the corner of a crowded and intersection and preaches at the volume of many decibels (though I have done that … recently!).

Rather, I’m the kind of evangelist who cannot conceive of pastoral ministry, or any other way of being human, apart from building communities of worship in which people come to participate in “real social space,” centered on Christ, belonging just because they, we, are human. (How Holy Baptism relates to this must be addressed in a separate post.)

And yet I confess that I have always felt a certain tension between, on the one hand, this urge, this conatus, to commend a message and to invite into deeper community, and, on the other hand, my theology which resists the attempt to dumb anything down, to “be relevant,” or to make the Gospel easier or more palatable.

Hence my encouragement at the above quotation.

Suddenly it all makes sense. As CS Lewis reminds us, human beings are designed to praise and laud Something Bigger than Oneself, and this is necessarily a social phenomenon. We cannot sing the praises of a good film or a rich red wine by ourselves … at least not fully. We must tell someone else; we must share the experience.

And yet, the experience we must share must be “bigger than oneself,” lofty, grand, great, unattainable. It must be beautiful in mystery. It cannot be easily grasped or conveniently assimilated.

So it is that, paradoxically, the difficult, ineffable way of theology and the divine, advocated by such personae as CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, Rowan Williams, and those involved in Radical Orthodoxy lends itself most “naturally” to the zeal of the evangelist.

 

 

 

 

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Wine in the Morning

One of my consistent findings over the last few years (including over a decade now in pastoral ministry) is that few topics stir up more interest than the topic of alcohol and drinking. This is true for sermons, blog posts, lectures, as well as just casual conversation.

And so it is that I have found myself marveling over the past year or so (ever since I was ordained as an Episcopal Priest) at the mirthful, exuberant experience of drinking wine in the morning.

Now, I only do this once per week, mind you.

And in fact, it only happens on Sunday mornings (though I’ve heard of priests for whom this experience occurs in a more quotidian fashion).

But every Sunday morning, with few exceptions, over the last year or so, I have drunk wine in the morning. And not sissy wine. Not “small” wine. Rather, 18% alcohol (that’s 36 proof!) Tawny Port.

And, interestingly enough, it only happens at the altar of the cosmically propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. That is, it only happens at the table of eschatological feasting, where, with all the saints and angels, we celebrate the victory of God over all our enemies, sins, and fears. That is, it happens only at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.

Now, granted, when I drink wine on Sunday mornings, I’m not drinking it alone. Far from it: there are masses of co-celebrants who drink in the tangy-sweet liquid of surprising joy. However, I am left to consume all that remains in the chalice, that vessel the beauty of which is solely designed to laud the priceless nectar it contains.

And so there I stand, Sunday after Sunday, at this altar / table of torture / joy, called on to consume all the blood / wine that remains in the sanctified goblet. And consume it I do, Sunday after Sunday.

Sometimes there is not so much left.

Sometimes, however, two of the largest gulps I can manage are required to do the job, and on these Sundays, my head swims with mystery.

The mystery of love made drink, the mystery of wine made blood, the mystery of a God who chooses to intoxicate his Beloved as a way of making them more sober, more sane, more serious about what Life is all about.

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Nigeria & Eliza Griswold’s _The 10th Parallel_

About a month ago I heard a podcast of “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross in which she interviewed both Eliza Griswold, daughter of former Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, as well as Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family and 2010 Blandy Lecturer at the Seminary of the Southwest.

Sharlet has an article in this month’s Harper’s on homosexuality in Uganda called “Straight Man’s Burden” which is interesting reading.

After hearing the interview I purchased the book and started reading, largely to prepare myself for the upcoming visit to Christ Church Tyler of the Most Reverend Benjamin Kwashi, an Anglican archbishop in Nigeria. (God willing, I also have the amazing opportunity, at the Archbishop’s request, to travel to Nigeria next summer with a group from Christ Church.)

I plan to blog on this book over the next few days. For now, here’s a great quotation (from page 11):

Today’s typical Protestant in an African woman, not a white American man. In many of the weak states along the tenth parallel, the power of these religious movements is compounded by the fact that the “state” means very little here; governments are alien structures that offer their people almost nothing in the way of services or political rights. This lack is especially pronounced where present-day national borders began as nothing more than lines sketched onto colonial maps. Other kinds of identity, consequently, come to the fore: religion above everything – even race or ethnicity – becomes a means to safeguard individual and collective security in this world and the next one.

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Ecclesial Revision in the Book of Acts

In our study of the book of Acts (which meets on Sunday afternoons at St. Mark’s in Austin) we have waded through many details. We have “gotten down and dirty” and delved into the gritty particulars of the story.

Because we have engaged in this hard work, I think we are now in a position to begin to discern some larger patterns in the narrative (what Alfred North Whitehead called “a simplicity on the far side of complexity”).  One of these patterns which we have seen and discussed repeatedly is the outward expansion of the Jesus movement from Jerusalem, through “Judea and Samaria” (1:8), to Rome, a city which embodies “the ends of the earth” or the outer reaches of the realm of the Gentiles or the “Greeks.”

Presupposed by this theme is the more basic one of “Jewish versus Gentile,” which, again, we have discussed deeply and widely.

But these two themes (outward expansion to the ends of the earth and the cultural tensions between Jew and Greek) are connected to a third: revision of the predecessor religion of the people of the God of the Jewish Scriptures.

The church today is full of people who advocate revision of various kinds. (One thinks of the issue of “open communion” as well as the ordination / consecration of openly homosexual presbyters and bishops.)

There are, however, two kinds of revisionists (at least potentially or in theory): there are those who, in their advocacy for change, are motivated by and rely upon sources external to the tradition (for example, the values of our Western, secular, post-Enlightenment culture) and those who are motivated by and rely upon sources within the tradition of Christianity or, within that, of Anglicanism.

While it does seem to me that revisionists of the first kind are fundamentally misguided right from the start, it nevertheless remains the case that there is a place for revision within the Christian tradition. In fact, the case can be stated much more strongly: the religion of the New Covenant in Christ is itself a drastic, radical, and shocking revision of something prior.  The process of this revision, in fact, lies at the heart of the story told in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.

Given this, it seems that a revisionist can rightly analogize from the revision narrated in Acts to other revisions which might be needed today. (Henry de Lubac, in fact, thinks this way in chapter VII  of his Catholicism. See here.) This would be the second kind of revision, motivated by and relying upon sources inherent to the tradition. Unlike secular revision, this kind should be respected and deeply engaged with.

The book of Acts, in fact, provides us with a set of criteria for revision in the Church. How did it come about that the Gentiles were included in the New Covenant of the God of the Hebrew Scriptures without having to become Jewish (ie, without having to be circumcised and having to observe the other ceremonial and cultic practices of the Jewish people such as festival keeping and various food laws)?

There are several factors which hold in the narrative, and which the text is at pains to emphasize, in the developments narrated in Acts:

1.    Confirmation by the larger body.
2.    Confrontation by undeniable phenomena (ie, Gentiles speaking in tongues).
3.    Scandalous, uncontrollable surprise.

These three factors will be elaborated upon in upcoming posts.

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The Inbreaking of the Kingdom – Acts 3:11-26 (Class #9, 3/8/09)

Here is the summary of our discussion for class #9 in our Acts study at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Austin, TX.  The title of the course is “A New Kind of Conquest” (see blog categories below). For the outline of Acts we are using, see here, and for more info please contact Matt.

“Peter’s interpretive word”

In our previous discussion(s) of the event of Pentecost, we paid close attention to the character that the Jewish Feast of the same name. In particular we noticed that at the heart of this feast was the idea of “first fruits,” a term which occurs several places in the NT, in particular in Paul’s writing. The idea here is that the Feast of Pentecost was a time for the people of Israel to offer back to God the initial portion, the “first fruits,” of the harvest. In doing this they were saying two things: “Thanks, God, for this gift,” and also, “Now, please, God, may there be much more of this harvest to follow.”

There is a very important word in this current passage we are considering, Acts 3:11-26, which occurs in verse 15. It is the word archegos, which is very cognate with the Greek word for “first fruits,” (aparchen). These words share a common root: the word arche, which has a wide semantic range which can include “ruler” or “beginning.”

In this verse Jesus is referred to as the archegos, or the Pioneer, or the Founder, of the Author, of life. What it is saying that Jesus in the first human to “bust out: into the new realm of “heaven,” into the new realm of “the Kingdom of God,” into the new realm of “universal restoration,” which very term (Gk. apocatastasis) occurs in 3:21.

So in this passage Peter is interpreting the meaning of the healing of this crippled man. According to Peter,  Jesus, as the Pioneer of the Faith, has entered into the new world of total restoration and holistic shalom by his resurrectin and ascension, and therefore his followers Peter and John, who have Jesus’ same spirit, have been agents through which this “perfect health” (verse 16) was given or restored to this crippled man.

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Entering the New Community – Acts 2:37-47 (Class #7, 2/22/09)

Here is the outline for class #7 in our Acts study at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Austin, TX.  The title of the course is “A New Kind of Conquest” (see blog categories below). For the outline of Acts we are using, see here, and for more info please contact Matt.

Acts 2:37 – 47 (Sunday, February 22, 2009)

“(Entrance into) the New Community”

I. Review: “these last days” from Holy Eucharist Rite II, Prayer B.

II. Repent & be baptized.

A. Repent, or turn, from what?[1]

B. Baptism: comparison with John’s baptism

1. Repentance in Lk 3 (vv 3, 8)

2. “What should we do? (Lk 3:12)

C. Baptism: contrasts with John’s baptism

1. Name of Jesus

2. Reception of HS

3. John’s baptism not sufficient: 18:24-26;19:4-5

III. Life in the New Community

A. Teaching

B. Fellowship / koinonia

C. Breaking of Bread

D. “The Prayers”

· Rather than look at all four of these separately and in depth, I want to suggest that this is a picture of a “worship service” in the early church. The key to this is to see that it was the breaking of bread which is central (perhaps because tactile and concrete) to the worship service: see Lk 22:19; 24:30-35; Acts 20:7,11.[2]


[1] NTW, 40 – 41.

[2] For some background on “first day of the week,” see John 20:1,19. Here John is stressing that it was on the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead.

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Pentecost as New Creation – Acts 2:1-36 (Class #6, 2/16/09)

Here is the outline for class #6 in our Acts study at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Austin, TX.  The title of the course is “A New Kind of Conquest” (see blog categories below). For the outline of Acts we are using, see here, and for more info please contact Matt.

Acts 2:1-36 (Sunday, February 15, 2009)

“The Beginning of the New Creation”

I. The Phenomenon of Pentecost: Thinking Typologically (2:1-4)

A. Holy Spirit as first fruits.

1. Some NT uses of this word.

a. Rom 8:23

b. Rom 16:5

c. I Cor 15:20

d. James 1:18

2. First fruits of what?

B. Holy Spirit as new law.

II. New Words for New News (2:5-13)

A. Blessing the World through Israel.

1. Reversal of Babel

2. New house / oikos.

B. Deed à Question à Word (NT Pattern of Mission)

III. Words of Explanation: Peter’s Sermon (2:14-36)

A. Prophecy of Joel: Now Being Fulfilled (2:14-21)

1. “Last Days”

2. “Day of the LORD”

3. Earth-shattering events.

4. Radical Inclusivity (& Political Discomfort)

5. “Salvation”

B. King of Israel, for the World.(2:22-36)

1. Ps 16: King of Israel

2. Ps 110: for the World

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“Ascension” – Acts 1:9-11 (Class #5: 2-9-09)

Here is the outline for class #5 in our Acts study at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Austin, TX.  The title of the course is “A New Kind of Conquest” (see blog categories below). For the outline of Acts we are using, see here, and for more info please contact Matt.

(Once again I am encouraged by the depth of the discussion last night, as we discussed the meaning of the ascension (“stage 2” of the resurrection) of King Jesus.)

“Ascension”

I. Cosmology of “Heaven and Earth”

A. Gen 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Hendiadys for the whole creation.

B. “Heaven is “God’s Dimension or realm,” not “where you go when you die.”

C. The whole narrative of Scripture, including the resurrection and the ascension (and the incarnation!), is about the coming-together of “heaven” and “earth.”

D. St. Thomas Aquinas on the human person: “a rational animal.” Kind of like animals (body), and kind of like angels (disembodied souls). Human being as nexus of “heaven” and “earth.”

II. Scriptural (ie, OT) Precedent: Dan. 7:9-14 & “The Ancient of Days”

A. Daniel would have been in people’s minds due to the “abomination of desolation” text we have discussed in connection of the sacriledge of Antiochus Epiphanes IV.

B. “… coming on the clouds.” Typology of cloud in OT.

III. Greco-Roman Precedent: “ascensions” of Caesars.

Arch of Titus: souls of emperors going up to heaven.

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Acts 1:6-8 (class #4: Feb 1, 2009)

Here is the outline for class #4 in our Acts study at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Austin, TX.  The title of the course is “A New Kind of Conquest” (see blog categories below). For the outline of Acts we are using, see here, and for more info please contact Matt.

 

“A Question about the Kingdom”

I.      Is it bad to be a child?

II.    Why were they[1] still like children? 

III.  OT Precedents

  • A.   Ps 72
  • B.    Ps 89
  • C.    Isa 40 – 55

IV. Kingdom Dreams Transfigured

V.   Didn’t Jesus basically answer, “No”?

VI. Not just a trip, but a journey (1:8)

VII.  “My witnesses: King Jesus. We have a job to do.

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Acts 1:1-5 (Class #3: Jan 25, 2009)

This is the outline for class #3 in our Bible Study in Acts at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Austin, TX.  The title of the course is “A New Kind of Conquest.” For the outline of Acts we are using, see here, and for more info please contact Matt.

I. Resurrection leads to a New World.

Features of this new world (from Luke 24):

A. Surprise

B. Hope & Joy from Loss & Despair

C. New Prominent Role for Women

D. Holy Spirit Power

II. Holy Spirit

A. “This coming baptism will be like John’s baptism.”

1. plunged into _____ / _____.

2. restored _____ / _____.

3. But not just outside, rather on the inside.[1]

B. Don’t do anything yet; just wait … on the Spirit.

III. What do these 2 things tell us about this “new conquest?”


[1] Jesus is becoming King, and you will know this as a reality inside your own selves.

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Approaching Acts: Historical Perspective (Class #2)

This is the outline for class #2 in our Bible Study in Acts at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Austin, TX. For more info contact Matt. The title of the course is “A New Kind of Conquest.” For the outline of Acts we are using, see here.

Today’s Thesis: If the Gospels are about a different kind of king, then Acts is about a different kind of conquest.

I. Jerusalem to Rome (1:8)

“In the Acts of the Apostles we find a highly evocative story of the church’s beginnings that traces its dramatic growth from sacred Jerusalem to imperial Rome.”[1]

a. Jerusalem: 1:4

b. Rome: 28:16

II. A different kind of conquest (I Mac 1:1-4).

“After Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim, had defeated Darius of the Persians and the Medes, he succeeded him as king. (He had previously become king of Greece.) 2 He fought many battles, conquered strongholds, and put to death the kings of the earth. 3 He advanced to the ends of the earth, and plundered many nations. When the earth became quiet before him, he was exalted, and his heart was lifted up. 4 He gathered a very strong army and ruled over countries, nations, and princes, and they became tributary to him.

a. Canonical context: kingdom, king.

b. Historical context.

i. Imperial Hellenism

1. Philip II (d. 336 BCE)

2. Alexander (d. 323 BCE)

3. Ptolemy / Seleucid

4. Antiochus IV Epiphanes[2] (d. 164)

ii. Jewish Revolt / Independence

1. Desecration of the Temple

2. Hasmonean Dynasty

3. Judas Maccabeus[3]

iii. Roman Rule (63 BCE)

the point: feelings of exile / bondage

III. Discussion: What kind of conquest is this? A new conquest for today?



[1] Robert Wall, The Acts of the Apostles, 3.

[2] Seleucid King (not Ptolemaic).

[3] Judas took back control of the Temple in 164. His brother Simon expelled the Seleucid army in 142.

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Approaching Acts: Canonical Perspective (Class #1)

This is the outline for class #1 in our Bible Study in Acts at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Austin, TX. The title of the course is “A New Kind of Conquest.” For more info contact Matt. (For the outline of Acts we are using, see here.)

Theme: If the Gospels are about a new kind of King, then Acts is about a new kind of conquest.


I.    A window onto the larger narrative (of Scripture & liturgy)

II.    The Deeds and Teaching of King Jesus, Part II

III.    Kingdom of God

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Big Picture Outline of Acts

Here’s the big picture outline of the book of Acts we are using at St. Mark’s for our Sunday afternoon study group:

Outline of the Book of Acts

I.    Prologue: 1:1-5
II.    Initial Events 1:6-26
III.    Birth of the Church in Jerusalem 2:1 – 5:42
IV.    Beginning of Persecution: 6:1 – 9:31
V.    Spread of Christianity to the Gentiles 9:32 – 12:25
VI.    Paul’s 1st Missionary Journey 13:1 – 15:41
VII.    Paul’s 2nd Missionary Journey 16:1 – 18:23
VIII.    Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey (primarily Ephesus) 18:24 – 20:6
IX.    Paul’s Journey to Jerusalem 20:7 – 21:17
X.    Paul in Jerusalem 21:18 – 23:35
XI.    Paul before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa 24:1 – 26:32
XII.    Paul’s Journey to Rome 27:1 – 28:31

If you would like a word doc of this outline, email me at mattboulter@gmail.org.

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