Reflections on Acts, fast forward one year

Last year, I wrote a blog for the Smith Center for Religious and Spiritual Life about the UMass Cru fall retreat. For some reason, it was never published. Nevertheless, one year later, I’m learning about the missionaries in Acts again as I take the class “Mission and Culture” at Denver Seminary.

More than ever, I feel called to missions and challenged to pursue it in the same way Jesus did. In “A Light to the Nations,” Michael Goheen describes mission as both centripetal and centrifugal.

“The Old Testament had envisioned a centripetal movement from the periphery (nations) to the center (Jerusalem). Jesus’s words in Acts 1:8 outline the (centrifugal) path from the center to the periphery, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (131).”

What’s interesting about Goheen’s argument is that he asserts the Jesus creates the shift the Old Treatment centripetal movement to the centrifugal movement. He is the firstborn of the new Kingdom, the pioneer, the inaugurator. His death is the end of the old and his resurrection is the beginning of the new. We are now transformed by the Holy Spirit to go out to the nations and bring the light of God with us. This is how it was for Paul and Barnabas being sent out from the church of Antioch and so it is today.

Here’s the blog:

Over 100 students from the 5 colleges and surrounding area gathered at Camp Spofford in New Hampshire for UMass Cru’s annual Fall Retreat this past weekend October 13th-15th.  Students represented a number of community colleges, Plymouth State, Smith, and of course, UMass.

The focus of the weekend was to provide students with time to fellowship with one another and spend time growing in their walk with God on their own, as the group reflected on the sermons given by the speaker for the retreat, Pat McLeod.

Cru Boston Director Pat McLeod giving a message to UMass Cru

Though his roots are in Montana, McLeod now leads the Cru movement in Boston and serves as Chaplin at Harvard. He has been serving in the Northeast for a number of years, encouraging students to follow Christ and proclaim the message of the gospel.

McLeod gave a series of four sermons all on the book of Acts. He began the series by focusing on who the main characters are in the book of Acts, focusing on the life of the Apostle Peter. McLeod outlined four impactful moments of Peter’s life and character development. The first was when Peter, a self-conscious sinner met Jesus. McLeod pointed the group to Luke 5:4-11 where Peter admits that he is a sinner while fishing and Jesus famously responds “From now on you will be catching people!” after which Peter left everything and followed Jesus, becoming a disciple. The second was when Peter, a self-reliant Christina fails Jesus. McLeod then read Matthew 26:31-35, where Peter tells Jesus “even if everyone runs away because of You, I will never run away!” to which Jesus responded “I assure you, tonight, before the rooster crows you will deny me three times!” McLeod made the point that Peter was self-reliant, and eventually he did deny Jesus in Matthew 26:69-75, despite his genuine intentions in this verse. The third was when Peter, a surrendered Christian, meets Jesus again after his resurrection. The group looked at John 21:4-6 where the resurrected Jesus meets Peter, fishing once again. Jumping ahead to Acts 1:8, when Jesus says “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” McLeod then concludes, the main character in the book of Acts is actually the Holy Spirit. McLeod referenced Acts 4:5-10 where Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit stands up to Jewish leadership to spread the message of Jesus Christ.

McLeod continued the series with this foundation of the power of the Holy Spirit, encouraging students to live with courageous determination, overcome reluctance and fear, and trust in God so that His power may be released in our hearts.

Camp Stafford, NH

Activities for the weekend included black light volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, canoeing, group yoga, and free time to relax. During free time, students also had the option of attending seminars on the topics of conflict resolution, praying for missions, and a panel on relationships.