Does the church lock the door?


Does the church lock the door?

Text study on John 20: (18),19-23; Acts (1:26); 2:1-21 Lectionary text for Pentecost, June 12, 2011

A foundational question asked of congregations and leaders today is, "Are we an Acts Chapter 1 or an Acts Chapter 2 church?" That question has been posed to me over the years.

Even though I like to believe that I respond differently than the disciples did, in truth I probably do the same thing. It is much easier to lock the doors to keep Jesus, neighbors and the neighborhood out.

The Holy Spirit at work

Jesus and the Holy Spirit complicate a congregation’s life. It is easier just to hold another meeting to cast lots on who has to be on council this year than to see and hear what the Spirit is doing.

Things go better for congregations and leaders who read these Pentecost texts and leave them be. Keep them as mythic tales of what God did in the past and do not let them encroach upon the good church "stuff" we are doing now.

As long as the Holy Spirit does not stir things up, we can keep all those uncomfortable people and things out so our congregation can stay as it has always been.

The Spirit is dangerous because it moves where it will and in whom it will (John 3) with no respect for right order, planning or structure. When we stay in Acts 1, leaders and congregations need not go beyond people who are just like us, who share the same experience and values we already have.

The doors don’t even need to be locked when we only talk to each other and keep our liturgy and activities inaccessible. Those others will get the message and stay away.

The second chapter of Acts

But Acts continues past the first chapter. The Acts 2 Pentecost texts reveal what God is doing now. Jesus shows up all the time -- especially when it is inconvenient and unexpected.

As in all the resurrection accounts, we never quite recognize him, but often after the fact it clicks: "I have seen the Lord."

Living as the church of Acts 2 and beyond, we learn quickly that the Spirit is already doing God’s work before we ever get there. Sometimes all we have to do is step back and let the Spirit be revealed.

Whether it is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sin (John 20:23) or the proclamation of the good news in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:32), the Spirit is doing its work directly and powerfully through us.


• Where and how do you see Jesus showing up at your congregation?
• What barriers do we put up to resist the Spirit's work among us and beyond us?


Michael Keys is the bishop and director for evangelical mission for the Alaska Synod of the ELCA.

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