Even if we have read the first chapter of Acts many times, we may overlook this profound moment. Here, the community of Christ followers gathers on the eve of the birth of the church. As readers, we know the story of Pentecost to come, but they do not. “They all joined together constantly in prayer” (niv). The labor and delivery of the church—the gift of the Holy Spirit that will fall upon these first believers—begins with this simple and profound fact: A community of Jesus’ followers gathered in prayer.

Connection to one another through community is written into creation. Trees were once thought to simply compete for light and nutrients. Though they do compete in some ways, trees more often assist one another. When one tree is sick, nearby trees may share nutrients through their roots to help it get well again. An intricate web of roots and fungi connect tree to tree in a forest, twice as big as the canopy overhead, which enables trees to communicate about insect predators and much more.

We too are meant to live in community. The monastic life reveals this truth. For even if one joins a monastery to flee the world, he or she will soon find that a more challenging community awaits, and it’s now a 24/7 community. The difference is that the “glue” for the monastic community is prayer.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Evelyn Underhill contended that “prayer is the closest thing to absolute action.” For in prayer, we join the most powerful, loving force in the world—God. And we join one another in this collective waiting upon the Divine. Electricity—power—is generated among us when we pray one for another and for our world, and our prayers open space for the Spirit to fall upon us as a community. When we are truly together in prayer, Divine love connects us.

Loving Creator, your word created a world in Genesis and your Spirit created the beginnings of Christ’s church. May we awaken to your creating presence in our day. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read John 17:1-11

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Lectionary Week
May 18–24, 2020
Scripture Overview

Though Jesus has taught his disciples that God’s kingdom is not an earthly one, following the Resurrection some are still expecting him to set up a kingdom on earth. Instead, Jesus ascends into heaven in front of them, being taken up in the clouds. The scene recalls Psalm 68, where the Lord is described as one who rides on the clouds across the expanse of the heavens. In the Gospel reading, Jesus anticipates his coming departure and prays for his followers. Peter talks about a trial—literally a “fiery ordeal”—that is testing Christians. The reference to fire may be specific, for the Roman historian Tacitus records that Nero killed Christians in Rome by burning them alive. The author may therefore be speaking about suffering that is not just metaphorical.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Acts 1:6-14. When have you experienced the power of community?
Read Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35. Recall a time when you recognized God’s power with fear and joy. How might that have been a foretaste of God’s kingdom?
Read 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11. How have you walked with faith through suffering?
Read John 17:1-11. What does it mean for you or your congregation that Jesus prayed for unity among his followers?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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