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May 7

Acts 1, 1-2

Something to read

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

New Revised Standard Version

Something to think about

The Acts of the Apostles is considered to be a continuation of the Gospel of Luke, written by the same author. The book is addressed by name to Theophilus (which is Greek for 'friend of God').

Most scholars do not think Theophilus was an actual person, but rather that it was the author's way to address any reader as God's friend. There is something radical in this seemingly minor literary device.

The audience for this book were Greek-speaking peoples living in the Roman Empire (the lingua franca of the empire was Greek, not Latin).

For this audience, being addressed as a friend of God would be very strange, even a little crazy. In the mystery religions popular at the time and in imperial state cult of the gods of Rome, human beings were never considered 'friends' of God or the gods. The gods were many things, but they were not friendly, especially towards mortals.

It is the distinct witness of the Gospel of the Risen Christ that ordinary human beings are considered friends of God. Everything that Jesus does in his several post-resurrection visitations to the disciples indicates this.

The radical gospel reveals God as parent and friend in sharp distinction to commonly held ideas of the gods as inapproachable and distant. For the Jews, it was a given that if one dared look upon God's face or hear God's voice directly, the person would surely die – even Moses did not look upon God, but veiled his face.   

Something to do

Be friendly. Friendship is a divine gift – it is something that reflects an attribute of God as revealed in Christ. Consider that being a friend, keeping our old friendships in repair, and making new friends are all spiritual acts.  

Something to pray

Lord, grant us your grace,
Fold your arms around us,
Bless our hearts with peace,
Shine upon us with your love,
And let your mercies fall on us -
That we may hear your call;
That we may know your salvation
And that we may enjoy you forever.

Today's contributor is the Rev James Matarazzo Jr, a United Church of Christ (USA) minister from Boston, Massachusetts. He moved to London in 2007. Jim is a founding member of INERELA+ (International Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Affected by HIV and AIDS), a Christian Aid partner. He is now working on a DPhil in Systematic Theology at Oxford University.

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