The Holy Spirit has come. It has empowered the apostles to continue the work of the Kingdom of God. It is transforming the narrative still from power and might to healing and wholeness.
May 8, 2022
“We Are The Church . . . Let’s Act Like It”
Act With Generosity
Acts 3:1-10; 4:1-20
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Acts 3: 1-10; Acts 4: 1-20
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with wonder and astonishment at what had happened to him.
While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed, and they numbered about five thousand. The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are being asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.
This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Act With Generosity Acts 3:1-10; 4:1-20
We continue this Sunday taking a look at how the Book of Acts can help us as modern day disciples reclaim our faith and become the church God calls us to be here on earth.
I hesitated writing this sermon because I was worried everyone would think that I wanted us to stand on the street corner, yelling out what we believe as people passed by. But as I lived with this text this week, other scenarios came to mind, moments like when I felt compelled to speak out against the injustices which I had seen but instead kept my quiet because I was afraid of the consequences of my actions, moments like when I have heard people saying “Why would I want to worship a God that is so judgmental, so hurtful, so full of hate?” And instead of telling them that they were wrong, that God was full of love, full of grace, I simply kept my mouth shut and watched as they continued to crucify my Lord.
As I lived with this text this past week, I also thought about how many times I have refused to show grace to Peter and have instead lifted him up as an example of what not to do as a disciples without really considering that I too have acted in the exact same way on many occasions. All I could think about was, “Why is that?” Why have I stood back rather than proclaim the good news? Why haven’t I stepped forward like Peter? In our text, he looks at the crowd, and regardless of what they think of him, he proclaims what he believes, what he knows to be true. He proclaims and professes his faith right then and there. He no longer denies. He claimes the Gospel message as his own and in doing so, transforms the world. Why haven’t I done that?
I know that I am not alone in this wondering. Many of you have said the same thing to me in passing conversations. You have shared your frustrations that the loudest voice coming from the wider church is one of hate and judgment. You have shared with me your wonderings about why we have kept silent when we have such amazing and life-giving news to share. You have shared your thoughts on why we aren’t sharing the good news about God’s love today.
As I struggled with this text this week, it does seems like we, as modern day disciples, do have a tendency to sit back on the sidelines, letting others tell us what we believe, letting others telling us what the Gospel message really is, letting others tell us that as Christians, we need to play nice. No wonder the modern day church is in decline. We’ve lost our flavor. The fire has been put out. As people of faith, we are not proclaiming the amazing work of God. Instead, the message that we as the church are sending is that we don’t want to make anyone mad. Just come and be comfortable. Come and stay for an hour. Hear some good music. And then leave, with no expectation of being changed or transformed.
That is so not what Jesus taught us or showed us by his example when he was proclaiming the good new here on earth! In fact, almost every time, Jesus got up to preach, he made someone mad. Almost every time, Jesus healed someone, he made someone mad. Almost every time, Jesus lived out the Gospel message by inviting the tax collectors and prostitutes to dinner, by embracing people on the margin as his brother and sister, by challenging the powers that be, he made someone mad.
The certain fact is that the Gospel message stirs things up, shakes things up, and yes, makes people mad. The certain fact is that the heart of the Gospel message does not call us to be comforted but to comfort the afflicted, just like Jesus did when he was here on earth, changing lives, transforming lives and making people mad. So why do we as modern day disciples expect anything less when we truly embrace our calling to be followers of Jesus of Christ?
This week, as I reflected on how Peter shared what he had with the beggar, shared what he had with the crowd, I couldn’t help but think about how history would have been so different if a courageous few had not stepped forward from the sidelines, if they had not stepped forward, if they had not had a life transforming experience with God which shaped their faith and their understanding of who God was calling them to be, how different our lives would be today. Where would we be if Dietrich Bonheoffer, because of his belief in Jesus Christ, had not spoken out against the cruelty he saw in Nazi Germany? Where would we be if Mother Teresa, because of her relationship with God, had not spoken out against the poverty and disease that she saw on the streets of Calcutta? Where would we be if Martin Luther King Jr, because of his study and understanding of the Gospel message, had not spoken out for civil rights for the people others ignored and mistreated all because of the color of their skin? Where would we be if countless others, because of their passionate belief in a Gospel message of love and peace, if they had not stepped out from the sidelines and spoken up, becoming a bold witness for God?
As modern day disciples, we are not called to play it safe with the Gospel message. We are called to proclaim what we believe because how else is this world going to know about God’s love and grace unless we tell everyone about it! We are called to tell the story, the wonderful wild and dangerous story about how our God who loved us so much that he sent his only Son so that we might live. We are called to tell the story of how we were lost and now we are found. We are called to tell the story of how God’s love changed us and continues to challenge us to be prophets and people of the God’s Kingdom here on earth. This sermon is also available as a podcast.
Who knows what will and can happen? Maybe we might just find our flavor. Maybe we might just find our fire. Maybe we might just start bringing healing and wholeness to this broken world. Who knows…Maybe we might just experience God’s Kingdom here on earth. We might just become the community of faith God created us and is calling us to be.
So for a time such as this…Midway Christian Church here in person and Midway Christian Church on line…we are the Church…Let’s Act like it.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, May 8, 2022 – Act With Generosity Acts 3:1-10; 4:1-20.
This sermon is also available as a podcast.