The New Testament reading for this morning comes from the Book of Acts, that amazing account of the activities that took place from the Ascension when Jesus left his band of disciples and ends with a description of Paul, although a prisoner, still preaching:
…proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Its contents include the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise that:
you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.
That, of course occurred during the Jewish festival of Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, the spring barley harvest. Christians now also refer to that great event as Pentecost, but when I was growing up it was known as Whit Sunday, and the following Monday was the occasion of the Whit walks, when children dressed in white followed large banners, each bearing the name of their particular church, and walked in procession around the town. This was the heyday of the Sunday school, which attracted thousands of children throughout the land.
As the Book of Acts progresses, we read first of the activities of the early church, which came into being with the coming of the Holy Spirit – about three thousand of those who heard Peter speak being baptized:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
It was a heady time, but all too soon it attracted opposition, first from the Jewish authorities, later from the Romans, yet throughout the persecution which followed, the Gospel continued to be preached, first by Peter and John, later, after a dramatic conversion, by Paul. And it is Paul’s journeys which take up most of the second part of the Book of Acts. He became the first missionary for the faith, travelling throughout the known world, spreading the seeds which bore fruit in the many churches which were established as a result.