It can be the case that when we think about the early experience of the Church, that we compress it into a rather monochromatic history. In fact the disciples were probably more like us than we think. Even though Jesus gives them rather clear instructions that they are to wait in Jerusalem upon the Holy Spirit to receive his power, then they are to go out from there and proclaim and share this new life in Galilee, Samaria and indeed to the ends of the earth. What you in fact find, is that the disciples after Pentecost are filled with boldness and zeal – but they remain in the city of Jerusalem. It takes a very mundane act – the need to appoint new leaders to look after the needs of the Hellenistic followers of the Way (the Deacons) which results in two extraordinary men of God stepping up – Stephen and Philip. It is the provocative preaching of Stephen which results first in his execution, but second in a persecution that breaks out against the disciples. It is only in answer to this that Philip goes out from Jerusalem and begins to do what Jesus had instructed all the disciples to do – to leave Jerusalem and proclaim the message of the Messiah – in a Samaritan town. As is the case across the centuries, great signs accompany his preaching and the people rejoice and receive the message and are baptised. Even so, something is missing in their life and experience of God – something that only is awakened in them through the ministry of the apostles Peter and John, when they also leave Jerusalem and come to lay hands and pray for the release of the Holy Spirit in the lives of these believers.
Recorded at St Mary’s, Leppington. (7’38”)
Easter, Sunday 6, Year A. Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; I Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21.