In the broadest bend of the long, gravel driveway leading to my Louisiana home place sat a pond of modest size. Various wildlife called the little lagoon home, including a fox and a veritable Tabernacle Choir of evening frogs. For much of the year, the pond supported a layer of deep green algae, thick on the surface like a porridge. This covering made for still waters, so stagnant one could drive by and not even notice there was a body of water in the bend of the lane.
Except that there were rocks, lots of rocks. It was fortuitous for me that the nearby driveway was laid in generous gravel. Many a summer hour I spent as a lad tossing that gravel, piece by piece, into the middle of that pond. Some stones skipped, some sputtered, a few larger specimens landed with an impressive ker-plunk. Regardless of size, all my tosses produced ripples of some kind on the water—ever-widening circles of effect, moving from center to shore. Even those singing nightclub frogs, quiet in the hot afternoon, knew something was afoot as the rippled waves washed up on their domiciles. Ripples.
Late this summer in our Sunday preaching we will take up the New Testament book of Acts, or at least portions thereof. “Book” hardly does Acts justice; more like “wild ride.” If the gospels give us the canon’s master story—the news of Jesus’ living, dying, and rising—then the adventure that is Acts serves up “the rest of the story.” And what a postscript to Jesus it is: flames flickering, tongues appearing, wind blowing; ailments healed, speeches preached, prayers answered; outcasts welcomed, zealots enraged, servants condemned; Peter is convinced, Paul is converted, and Stephen is convicted.
We might say that Acts is one new wave of divine drama after another. Every chapter reveals one more resurrection ripple flowing out into the world from the epicenter of Jesus’ astonishing new Easter-life. “He is risen!” turns out to be massive ker-plumk in the world, sending out rings of redemption in every direction.
Good thing. We need those ripples washing up on our shore, season after season. Acts awakens us to the divine power available in Jesus’ name. Acts emboldens us for the sometimes-bumpy encounters between gospel and culture. Acts stokes our faith imagination, inviting us—demanding us!—to consider what new Holy-Spirit-wave God is asking us to ride out into God’s world.