Lectionary Scriptures and Comments

The last supper room in Jerusalem, Cenacle

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Sermon for Sunday 051511

Su15   Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:42-47

Psalm 23

1 Peter 2:19-25

John 10:1-10

Acts 2:42-47

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

2He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

3he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.

5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

1 Peter 2:19-25

19For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. 22“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

John 10:1-10

10“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Expectation and Commitment 051511

 

Over the years, I’ve come to return time and again to the subject of the early church, the very early church, that period of time that occurred right after the execution of Jesus Christ.

It is an important period of time because right after Jesus’ death what we can look at is the most immediate, the freshest look at Jesus through the ideas and words of people who knew Jesus face-to-face or knew Jesus from the social context of the Mediterranean at that time, of the Jewish state and scholastic tradition at that time, and of the Roman Empire. For people like us who were not alive in the historical instant of Jesus’ life, the reflection of Jesus’ life in the lives of those nearby give us a quick idea of what Jesus meant, and how Jesus meant his disciples to carry forward his message.

The book of Acts, from which we read this morning, was written by the same author as the book of Luke, and we could call Acts ‘Luke 2’. In Acts the narrative and vocabulary of Luke continue smoothly, breaking at the end of Luke with Jesus’ death and resurrection and continuing into Acts with the narrative.

The pattern in Acts goes like this. Three summaries of the work and life of the apostles is separated by more detailed narrative, but with less comment. Many of the events in between the summaries are events that could be described as trials and suffering.

Our scripture reading for today, which is Acts 2: 42-47. This is a striking description of the common life they shared.

 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

There are two major linguistic words within this verse. The first is the Greek word Proskatereo. This word was first used in Acts to describe the Apostles’ in the upper room, where they waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as recounted in Acts 2:1-6.

Acts 2:1-6

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

The word Proskatereo is used in this to explain the Apostles’ expectation of the Holy Spirit to come to them in the upper room and the same sort of expectant commitment to the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The appropriate response to God’s promise is active expectation that God will continue to do what God promised.

The second Greek word in today’s scripture passage is the Greek word translated here as ‘in common’ is Koinoinia. It is defined generally as ‘communion by intimate participation’.

People have interpreted this in so many ways. Included within individuals and different denominations have interpreted this into reality range from the Hutterite who own absolutely everything in common, to the Amish, who have individual farms and homes and businesses but maintain a fairly rigid mutuality and commonality, as do the Hutterites. Mennonites, Church of the Brethern, Bruderhof Communities, German Baptists as well as other groups have defined this commonality differently and to large modern churches, there may be no commonality except a preacher hired in common, and a choir and a place of worship.

What all Christian communities, however defined should share is a shared existential reality and an anticipatory future.

The scripture from Acts 2:43 says the apostles performed wonders and signs. Acts 2:45 says that  as a community in communion they distributed to those in need, the fruit of the community. Thus a pattern of Christian life emerges from these earliest Christians.

This pattern has two sides to it which are balanced. The first side in faith. It is faith in Jesus Christ that saves us, faith says, and faith in God. This faith is not so much faith in a system of belief, as it is simple faith that a relationship exists between yourself and God.

The second side, or second half in this early pattern of Christian life, is that being a Chrisitian is not so much just believing. It is also living. Being a follower of Jesus Christ makes believers in a community of spiritual engaged participation, where believers encourage one another, learn together.

We are called also to perform signs and wonders on earth. Following the Greek word proskartereo is homothumadon. When we act with homothumadon, which means ‘in one accord’ together as a community of Christ, we do our part to eliminate hunger, homelessness, child abuse, discrimination and inequality.

God’s spirit, in and through us, performs signs and wonders on the earth. Mutual and unified commitment engenders marvelous acts of social justice within the community and beyond.

Being an apostle or disciple of Jesus is not just agreeing to a system of belief, it is also a way of life. As James says ‘Faith without works is dead’.

This is why our prayers so often ask for the Holy Spirit to be present. It is a promise of God and we expect our God to keep that promise and to fill each of us and all of us with the Holy Spirit. So, we have to be disciples that pray for the Holy Spirit to be with each of us and to be with our spiritual community. As believers, with our hearts and souls filled with the Holy Spirit we can together become devoted disciples in prayer, Bible study and meditation and in the work of God’s Kingdom that we are called to do.

As always we acknowledge that this church belongs to Jesus Christ, who always directs us a community of communion.

 

 

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