In June, the Divine Service Guide will be dedicated to various highlights from the book of Acts. Last month we looked back at the activity of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The Pentecost event had encouraged the Apostles to go out and fulfil their missionary commission. The divine services in June explore the actions of the Apostles in various situations and congregations.
In many translations of the Bible, the book of Acts is also known as the Acts of the Apostles. It becomes clear that the book deals with actions that are necessary for practising and spreading the gospel at the behest of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave His church Apostles to teach the gospel and put into practice that which He had commanded them to do (Matthew 28: 20). This is how the Apostles have understood their commission to this day, and they still endeavour to live up to it.
The first Sunday divine service shows us some fundamental things that are indispensable for the growth and survival of Christian congregations: fellowship with one another, the doctrine of Christ as proclaimed by the Apostles, breaking of bread, and the collective prayers of the congregation.
The sermon for the second Sunday is based on a Bible passage from 2 Corinthians. Here Paul relates of difficulties he experienced in preaching the gospel in Macedonia. There he was confronted with troubles facing the church. Although the Bible text is not taken from the book of Acts, its content is nevertheless an important testimony of the history and activities of the early Apostles.
On the third Sunday we are called upon to accept the Apostle ministry sent by the Lord, and to support the mission of the Apostles. To this end, we can testify of the present-day activity of the Apostles in both word and deed. Here the recognition of the necessity of this ministry, its activity on the basis of the power of the Holy Spirit, and the worthy receiving of the sacraments are cornerstones of our profession.
The last Sunday of the month is in preparation for the second divine service for the departed of the year. This divine service is likewise based on the activity of God through the Apostle ministry for the redemption of many who have passed away. The apostolicity of the Church also becomes clear in the fact that the sacraments are dispensed by the Apostles for both the living and the dead (Catechism 2.4.3; 6.5; 9.6.3 / Catechism-QA 402; 408). Recognition and a believing longing are prerequisites for receiving the sacraments. The preparatory service is to make us aware that souls from the beyond are present in every divine service in order to hear the gospel with us and be prepared to receive the sacraments.