Sermon at St Edward’s / Sun 23 April /Readings: Luke 24:13-35 and Acts 2:36-41
Ok so we are 2 weeks after Easter Sunday – who remembers the challenge I set you?
It was: in the next week (but you have had 2!) to share something of your faith or what the empty tomb means to you with someone around you – and I didn’t say this but I specifically meant share with people who are not already Christians!
Has anyone done this? Anyone shared something of their faith? Because I am going to keep on issuing you the same challenge!
We say we are a church of scripture, spirit, sacrament, that is shared. And that doesn’t just mean sharing within ourselves!
I’ll come back to that in a mo
Intro to Acts –
Now last week we began a new teaching series focussing on Acts – these are the lectionary readings/ so the set CofE readings for this season up to Pentecost (end of May), and they take us through Acts, so on Tues and Suns and in our bible study group that is what we are looking at: So that includes: The early church, Saul/Paul, growth of the church – it’s an exciting book.
And it starts with the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead – so we know after his death he was seen by the disciples at various times, as we heard in our Luke passage – on the road to Emmaus, then Jesus ascended, and now the disciples have been filled with the promised Holy Spirit to share the good news. They are preaching with great passion and seeing thousands become new believers. It is an exciting time.
In today’s passage we hear Peter having been filled with the Spirit – which you can read earlier in Acts /Pentecost etc – and now immediately after this, he is preaching powerfully to the crowd, and the response of the crowd is that they were:
V37-39 – Cut to the heart
and said: What shall we do?
An immediate response to hearing the message of Christ – what shall we do?
In Luke we heard how two of the disciples hear Jesus sharing his story (though they don’t realise at the time) but they say afterwards – v 32
Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?
They had a physical response to hearing the story of Jesus.
The gospel is a powerful thing – people should respond to it. It should reach our hearts
So – when did you feel cut to the heart when you heard about Jesus, heard someone preaching ? read something powerful?
When was the last time you were touched deeply in your heart with the truth of who Jesus is? When was the last time your heart burned within you?
By this I mean when have you really felt the truth of who Jesus is touch you so deeply – perhaps a moment of realisation or revelation? So you really felt it, really knew it – perhaps had an emotional reaction? O you knew something to be true for the first time?
When you asked – ok God what next? What should I do?
It is when the truth becomes real and personal that we then become good ambassadors for Christ. We are so full of the message we can’t help but share it.
When we share it then we get to see that happen for others! That dawning realisation. And this is part of our mandate as Christians, to share the good news – the great commission includes us. I’ve talked about this before, you know this stuff!
You know as a church we have doubled in size in a year. Partly because we asked people from the Point to consider joining us, others have come from other churches, others still have found us. We expected to grow quickly in this first 12 months – seeking to grow and with the partnership, and then probably to plateau a bit, for growth to slow down.
And that is exactly where we are at.
And what it feels like is that amongst us are people who have the gifts for key roles and purposes. Some of us were here already, some God has brought to us and we have a structure into which to invite people. We are the body of Christ with many parts – we all have gifts and skills to offer Christ and his church. And we make up this structure into which we invite people.
To grow in this next stage – it has to come through people coming to know the Lord for the first time. It is no good if we keep growing because people church hop – it does nothing to grow the kingdom. Nothing against any of you who have come so far – I know you have heard how God has called you here – you too are here for a reason, you are our foundation – but I am talking about going forward.
We need to see people hearing the good news and saying, oh my gosh, what do I do with this info? What next? What should I do? And we invite them in, we encourage them to repent – to let go of past wrong doing and hurt and come into the love of God and get baptised.
And on that – we have not yet done an adult baptism service but I’d like to offer that – if any of you have not been baptised or would like to renew your baptism vows, let’s do it!
And we have a confirmation service coming up with the bishop – if you have been baptised but would like to publicly say I want to be part of this church and affirm your faith as an adult – come talk to me!
Peter says repent and be baptised, be filled with the spirit – and then:
This promise (or forgiveness, of the HS) is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away
I love that – what Jesus offers is such a broad and inclusive offer! It is for everyone!
Evangelism is key to the future of this church. So, what are we going to do about it?
- Well firstly we are going to pray that the HS would fill us all afresh just as the disciples were in the early church, to give us courage and boldness, the words to say, the opportunities
- We are going to pray that God shows us the right people and times
- And we are going to get out there and share
And I don’t want you to be freaked out – some people hear the word ‘evangelism’ and instantly become like bunnies in a headlight. It doesn’t have to be scary – I’m not expecting you to all become seasoned preachers overnight!
Here are some simple ways:
- Talk about the fact you went to church on Sunday – in conversation when you are talking about what you have been doing – don’t leave out the bit where you go every week!
- Offer to pray for people who you know need it – you probs are anyway so tell them!
- Invite people to church – how many of you actually invited people at xmas or easter?
- Invite them to help in the café or our community garden?
- If the time is right, share something of your faith – in simple personal terms – how does your faith help you?
Now one of the key things we can do is work out in a few sentences what we might say to someone who asked about our faith – so what would be your answer to the question ;
Why do you go to church?
Or why do you have faith?
So I’m going to give you the opportunity now to think about it I encourage you to turn you the person next to you, or move to find someone – or if you don’t feel comfortable you can think about it by yourself – but just for a few mins – how would you answer that question?
Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to give us boldness and courage to share the gospel…