May 17th, 2020

Easter People

SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – MAY 17, 2020
Text: Acts 2:36-47
Title: “Easter People”
Here we are in “Eastertide” and we look to the Scriptures for guidance on how to be “Easter People” all year long. Our text from the Acts of the Apostles shows us clearly how to be a Church. The Apostles were busy proclaiming the Good News, and the Church was growing daily. We can learn from the story and recapture the movement of the Spirit in our midst. What was this “First Church” experience?

The first 3 aspects of Early Church life are found in Acts 2:42: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The first thing we read is that it was a learning Church. It kept listening to the apostles as they taught. One of the great perils of the Church is to look backwards instead of forward. Because the riches of Christ are inexhaustible, we should ever be going forward. It is to be counted as a wasted day when we do not learn something new and when we have not penetrated more deeply into the wisdom and grace of God. I remember the old story of two brothers who were walking to school one day. The younger brother was complaining that he was having trouble learning to spell “cat”. The wiser older brother advised, “Don’t bother to learn to spell cat, because if you do, the words only get harder!” That’s a funny story, but not a very sound philosophy. There is no stagnation in God’s world. The creative work of the Spirit continues, as we do. Never stop moving forward in faith, never stop growing, search out new insights, and adopt new commitments. It is God’s nature and it is the character of God’s Holy Church.

It was also a Church of fellowship, a Church of togetherness. The famed Admiral Nelson explained one of his victories: “I had the happiness to command a band of brothers”. The Church is real only when bound together in close Christian fellowship. Remember the “Miracle on Ice” at the 1980 winter Olympics? Mike Eruzione was the captain of a heavily overmatched US hockey team playing against the favorite – the Soviet Union hockey team. He said this after the victory, “We love each other……. we weren’t the best team, but we were the proudest. And we won.” It is the intangibles of the power of teamwork that led to these victories and leads us into the victory of the Church of Jesus Christ. Where one day, every need shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. The Apostle Paul called it an organic union – comparing the people to the parts of the Body – the hands, eyes, feet, etc. All working together for the sake of one body.

The Early Church was a praying Church. These early Christians knew two things: 1) that they could not meet life in their own strength, and 2) that they did not need too! They always went to God in prayer before they went out into the world. They were able to meet the problems of life because they had first met Jesus Christ. The power of prayer can change Christians, Congregations, and Communities. Prayer is the glue in our union with Christ, in His Body and in His Resurrection.

Verse 43 tells us: “And fear came upon every soul….” Here we understand, that in this context, the definition of ‘fear’ is better understood as ‘awe’, as in an awesome God. This was a reverent Church. It was said of a great Greek that he moved through this world as if it were a temple. The Christian lives in reverence because he or she knows that the whole earth is the temple of the Living God. When the blind man received his sight, it is said that it was as if scales fell from his eyes. When the eyes of the believer are opened, they see the world from God’s perspective. That gives us true sight, in turn it results in how we carry ourselves in the world. Our countenance, so to speak, is uplifted. When I was a youngster, upon leaving the house, my mother would always say, “Now, Chuck, remember who you are.” I knew what she meant. I was her child, I was a child of God, and I carried with me our family values and our Christian values. That is reverence – remembering whose you are!

“And many signs and wonders were done through the apostles.” The Early Church was a place where things were happening. Two lessons follow – 1) expect great things from God, and 2) attempt great things for God. Miracles still happen. Signs and wonders are all around us. These are regularly seen in the Mission of the Church – our charity, our love of neighbor. Seen as well in the Ministry of the Church – our outreach, our nurturing education programs. What are the two most precious resources of our modern society? This is not a philosophical question, rather a practical one. The answer is well known – the most precious possessions of humankind is our individual time and talents. If we’re to be a “happenin’ place”, then necessarily it requires our time and talents.

The Early Church possessed an intense feeling of mutual responsibility. It was a sharing Church. It was said of the founders of the Salvation Army (William and Catherine Booth) that “he never saw a drunken man but he had a feeling of personal responsibility for him.” The Scriptures are unambiguous about those having too much are to share with those who have too little. And the real miracle is that, beyond meeting the needs for “daily bread”, when we take responsibility for one another, then we are building up people for a purpose – to have the strength for greater service.

In verse 46 we read, “day by day, attending the temple together”. The Early Church never forgot to visit God’s house. It has been well said that God knows nothing of a solitary religion. It is impossible to be a Christian by yourself. It is in the very nature of the Body of Christ. Worship builds up the community of faith. Things can happen when we come together. God’s Spirit moves upon his worshipping people. Worship is the heartbeat of Christ’s Body.

“They partook of food with glad and generous hearts.” This was a happy Church. Indeed, a gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms. One fellow said, ‘I don’t know if Jesus ever laughed, but He sure fixed me so I could laugh again.’ The believer is given a precious gift – a deep seated Joy, a quiet confidence in the future, a healthy humor.

“praising God and having favor with all the people.” The Early Church was made up of such a joyful group of men and women that other people could not help but liking. God did a lovely thing with the precious gift of what I call a “winsome attractiveness”. We all know the saying that you attract more flies with honey than vinegar. While I never quite understood why anyone would want to attract more flies, it contains a truth, doesn’t it? God’s presence is a beautiful thing. It is even more beautiful when we see it in the life of an individual believer, but when it is seen in a common life, it becomes irresistible! It is a presence felt. Those who gather in His name, empowered by His presence, immediately create a feeling of “home”! We are at home in His house! What a blessing!

So, we are a learning Church, a Church of fellowship, a praying Church, a reverent Church, a Church of action and service, a sharing Church, a worshipping Church, a happy Church, and an attractive Church! This is the Body of Christ. This is the Church that cannot be stopped by any earthly power. This is the Church that is growing towards the eternal Kingdom!

Is this your Church? Pray to God to make it so!

Amen.