Sermon for St Edward’s / 30 April / Readings: John 10:1-10 & Acts 2:42-end
We are continuing in Acts this morning – this fabulous passage about the early church and what they did. And you might remember that this passage was our focus as we set out our new vision almost a year ago. So, this morning, especially with our APCM ahead, we have an opportunity to remind ourselves why this was a focus, and reignite ourselves.
This sermon is sort of in 2 parts – the theology now and the action – part 2 – in my presentation to APCM. So there’s a reason to stay on…
So as I am sure you remember the 3 headings for our vision are: Community, welcome and hope. And I want us to think about these in relation to our passage from Acts.
We talked about St Edward’s being at the centre of our community, where people are drawn to – a diversity of people who pop in for a cuppa, come to find a home, support or help, and the love of Jesus. Which is rather how I imagine the early church with their sharing of everything – that must have been so attractive and we know people were drawn to them because thousands became new believers.
So let us go back to a word I highlighted previously – ekklesia
Remember what it means?
Throughout Acts and most of Paul’s writings we see the use of a word for church ‘ekklesia’ in the Greek. Ekklesia is translated usually as ‘church’ but what it actually means is much more than that – it means gathering/assembly/or the people.
And the Ekklesia for the Greeks at that time, was a public gathering place of ‘the assembly’. a gathering that met almost weekly in almost all Greek cities, and it had been this way for hundreds of years before Jesus was even born.
In this assembly, they decided policy, appeals, elections, it was a place where citizens could speak their mind, influence one another and more. So it was a key defining part of the culture.
But Jesus says to Peter in Matthew 16 – I will build my church/my ekklesia on you and when he says this the Greek literally says, ‘of me…’ .
He was saying this new way – is going to be a gathering of people, with me at the heart of it.
So we too are ekklesia – a community of people with Jesus at the centre who seek to be a place where the wider community can be part of, but we are the key there – the bridge to the wider community – we are the people, the church/ the ekklesia – all of us. If we want to be at the heart of our community we need to be attractive as a people and draw people in.
and then there is this little line at the end at that passage in v 47
Praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.
They were overt about who they were, not ashamed of their faith, of Jesus, of who they believed in. AND they had the goodwill of all the people. They were known, loved, appreciated by the community. They were seen in the temple, seen giving in generosity, seen sharing of all they had, and it was attractive.
As I said last year – wouldn’t it be amazing if we could say of our church that it has the goodwill of all the people in our parish? If people here said, wow we love St Edward’s.
When we talk about welcome in our vision we mean what are we welcoming people into – the church family. Growing spiritually in our own faith, and numerically in seeing people want to join this community.
We read that the early church shared everything in common:
44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
I challenged our Tues congregation about this a few weeks back – how generous are we? In sharing with one another. What’s our charity giving like? And church giving?
How much are we willing to share what we have with others, no strings attached?
What would it look like if we had a central pot out of which we gave to those as they had need?
And what about our spiritual growth?
We read that they devoted themselves to teaching – to learning from those who knew Jesus, to fellowship – to community – and to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
there were many signs and wonders being done and awe came upon them. We are a church of scripture, spirit and sacrament that is shared – not that dissimilar I’d say.
They broke bread together – shared communion, they praised God together. They were so excited and filled with awe at this gospel, at who Jesus is, that they were growing in their faith and wanting to know more.Are we excited about the gospel? About the teaching we hear? Are we hungry for more? Are we growing spiritually? I know I’ve had great conversations with some of you who have shared how much you have learned in this last year or grown deeper in your faith which is so encouraging – how about the rest of you?
And as for signs and wonders – what are the answers to prayer we are seeing – let’s keep sharing them!
And hope – where is our hope? I’ve really talked about this already as these headings overlap but:
Our hope is in Jesus.
Let us never get so tied up in what we are doing here or our own personal preferences for worship that we forget who it is all about.
How did the early church grow? in simply preaching the gospel, in telling people about this Jesus – we see Peter doing this boldly as we looked at last week.
They preached the gospel, and when people said: ‘what shall we do’, they encouraged them to repent and be baptised and to receive the HS.
So our church has grown but are we seeing people come to know Jesus? Are we seeing people ask ‘what should I do?’
Shared example here...
So the early church as our example was gathered community, sacramental, worshiping, praising, supportive, generous.
We are a people of Scripture, Spirit, Sacrament and all that is Shared
And that still feels like a good blueprint for us today doesn’t it? So let’s keep focussing on our faith, sharing with others and the community around us.