Formations 05.15.2016: Unfamiliar Truth

Acts 2:22-36

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” —C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

C. S. Lewis, himself a Christian convert, wrote some pretty original and fantastic fiction, most of which didn’t even take place on this planet as we know it. The books in his Narnia series were the first stories I remember my parents reading aloud to me when I was a kid. I remember reading them again years later, this time on my own, and thinking that they felt like whole new stories. I’ve read the series at least three times now, and I still get the same feeling. I have a different connection to the characters each time, or I notice something new about the landscape. And every time I pick up the books again, the stories also allow me to reevaluate the details of my own experiences and my relationship with Jesus in a new way. The stories themselves were anything but unfamiliar, but the truths they held changed for me in every new season of my life.

Map of Narnia (Wikimedia Commons, Samuelmat)

Map of Narnia (Wikimedia Commons, Samuelmat)

And yet, assuming he took his own advice, Lewis did not worry about coming up with stories that have never been told before, or even stories that would seem exciting to a young girl like me growing up in Georgia. Instead, he looked to the truth, and he wrote it as truly as he could. Sometimes he delivered his thoughts through children’s fantasy, like the Narnia series, but he also wrote compelling, argumentative essays, like the one in the collection quoted above. Lewis’s work reminds me that there is more than one way to point to the truth of Jesus.

In this week’s letter in Acts, Peter understands that many people will have a hard time seeing how Jesus is the same Messiah the prophets promised. Fortunately, the Spirit has been given so that people will be able to find a new truth within something familiar.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity quotes, Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/801500.

Discussion

• What childhood stories helped introduce you to Jesus?
• How have those stories stuck with you? How have their meanings changed as you grew older?
• Consider the role of the Spirit in your journey of faith. How has your relationship with the Spirit changed over time?
• Can just anything point to Jesus? What’s significant about the way the Spirit points to Jesus?

Reference Shelf

Acts and the Movement of Christianity

More important is the overriding purpose of Acts. That there are many prominent concerns is incontestable: the impulse given the Christian movement by the unshakable confidence that Jesus was alive; close-knit fellowship and also tensions within the Christian community; conflicts with various Jewish and pagan force; the expansion of the movement from Jerusalem to the far reaches of the Roman Empire; key persons in the movement; the power of the Holy Spirit in the life and work of the church; and others. No one of these factors is able to exhaust all of the data of the book. Nevertheless, it is proper to seek an overriding design or purpose. Such a design should be and can be demonstrated from the entirety of the book.

The early title, “The Acts of the Apostles,” is not original and helps little as a clue to content or intention. Nine of the Twelve appear only in the listing of the disciples (1:13). John appears only briefly (3:1; 4:1-22; 8:14). His brother James was soon beheaded (12:2). Peter is prominent through 15:11 and then drops out. Another James, presumably brother to Jesus, plays a major role among Christian Jews in Jerusalem (15:13-21; 21:17-26). Paul is the dominant figure from 8:1 to the end of Acts. Stephen and Phillip, not apostles, were catalysts in breaking out of the narrow limits of Christian Judaism, freely preaching to Samaritans and God-fearing gentiles. Barnabas opened the way for Paul in Jerusalem and Syrian Antioch and a subsequent missionary tour, yet he is abruptly dropped at 15:39. Unnamed Cypriotes and Cyrenians preached to “Greeks” as well as Jews in Syrian Antioch, thus laying a new foundation for world missions (11:20). Thus, persons are prominent in Acts, apostles and others; but the focus is on the movement itself, not upon individuals for their own sakes.

Frank Stagg, “Apostles, Acts of the,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 49.

Michelle Meredith is a graduate of Mercer University, where she was the editor for literary and arts magazine The Dulcimer. She taught third and fourth grade in Mississippi for two years with Teach for America and became even more obsessed with live music and southern food (don’t even get her started on Delta tamales). She loves comedy, board games, roller derby, and hanging out with her dog. She is happy to be back in Macon, Georgia as the associate editor of Formations.

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