These readings today are from a time when that fabric of church life was being woven for the first time. First Christians were wondering as they faced life without Jesus, who were they going to be? As they faced persecution and trial, how would they make it through?
As they wove the tapestry of their faith and their congregational life, one thread found in I Peter is fortitude in the face of adversity. We people of God do not escape hard times. Like everyone, we face struggles, pain, sorrow, and death. Jesus died on a cross. But we are uniquely equipped to face adversity; as God restores, supports, strengthens, and establishes us. (As Peter says at the close of this reading.) Through personal prayer, our sense of confidence builds. We know the outcome. Through our conversation with others, through time spent in the Word, we recall the history of God’s work in the lives of others and ourselves. God restores, supports, strengthens, and establishes.
As the tapestry of church life is woven, another thread that binds the church and its servants together is waiting on the spirit. In Acts, the disciples are gathered and are called to be open to the coming Holy Spirit. They are waiting. Waiting on the spirit, rather than our own hopes and dreams, quiets our restless hearts. And it unites Christians who are also waiting for the same spirit. We all may have different values, priorities, and ideas, but Christians from many perspectives set those aside when we wait on the spirit. And in that yearning for a deeper truth, we sense how an as-yet-undreamed mission unfolds.
Fortitude and waiting. As the tapestry of church life is woven, another thread that binds the church and its servants is an upper room mentality. In the books of Luke and Acts, fellowship emerges in upper rooms. The upper room can actually be a lower room or even a basement. Sometimes the church basement with a hall and kitchen is the room of fellowship. But the important thing is that the room of the faithful lifts up the opportunity for community sharing and mutual support. This fellowship breeds conversation and courage out of which mission flows.
As the tapestry of church life is woven, another thread that binds the church and its servants is intimacy of Christ as found in of John. The gospel of John is too wordy for me to really like it. I like my Jesus more direct, as in the gospel of Mark. But in the twisting of these words about God and Jesus and their unity with the disciples, this early philosophical mystic reminds us that we are woven together, with God, in congregations, through life, in Christ, in the word, in the name of Jesus, until we do not know but feel the intertwining of God and Jesus in our in the fabric of our personal life and in our life together. It is this feeling of intimacy or closeness with God, the feeling of being knit together with the divine in community that is the sense of this intricate language of John. Intimacy. Getting close to God.
So with the intimacy of Christ, with an upper room mentality, waiting on the spirit, showing fortitude, the ancient church wove its way into the hearts of faithful servants not only for decades but centuries: into our time and place and into these upper rooms where we feel close to God and each other, as we find courage to wait, as we look past our suffering into something greater.