We conclude our sermon series on the Early Church with the account of Paul's sermon at the Areopagus in Athens. The Areopagus was a hill across from the Acropolis where public speeches regarding philosophy, law and religion were presented. Paul recognizes the religiosity of the Athenians as evidenced by the statues and temples dedicated to many different gods. Paul then argues that there is only one God that has created all humankind, and one man (Jesus Christ) who will judge the world according to God's righteousness. Thus the case for monotheism and Christ is presented to the world.
We continue our focus on the Church with another story from the Book of Acts. Peter faces criticism from the church leaders in Jerusalem for eating with Gentiles. When asked why he now included non-Jewish converts to the faith, Peter shared his vision of a large sheet descending from the heavens, filled with animals considered to be unclean under Jewish practices. Convinced that the Holy Spirit led both Jews and Gentiles to believe in Jesus Christ, Peter baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household. "If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that could hinder God?" (vs. 17). The Church today is called to include and welcome everyone, regardless of our differences.
Today we will be reading Acts 2:42-47, where our Foothills Youth teach us what it means to be Stronger Together through this all youth led service.
On Pentecost Sunday, we remember the arrival of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and the birth of the Church as Peter baptized the first Christians in Jerusalem. Today we baptize and confirm eleven youth who now become professing members of the Church. How is the Holy Spirit that gave the Church its start moving in our congregation and denomination today?"
We bring the Easter People sermon series to a close. We have explored what it means to be Easter People as followers, witnesses, disciples, and worshippers. All of these roles help us to move from doubt to belief, but being a believer is not only for our personal salvation. Jesus said in verse 21 that our personal belief has a bigger purpose: "As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." As a believer, we are called to proclaim the good news, so others will come to know Christ. When we live as Easter People, God's love will be experienced through us.
We continue our Easter People sermon series with a story from Paul's travels in the Book of Acts. Led by a vision of a man in Macedonia pleading for help, Paul and his colleagues sail across the Aegean Sea to the city of Philippi. There they discover a group of women who were worshipping God by the river on the Sabbath. They meet Lydia, a merchant of purple cloth, who is baptized by Paul. Lydia invites them to her home where they establish the Philippian church. The act of worshiping God as a community of faith is central to our identity as Christians, with music and art bringing us together. How do we worship together in the post-pandemic church?
As Easter People, we are disciples of Jesus Christ. The term "disciple" is not very popular today to describe Christians. Many think the term only refers to the twelve disciples. What does it mean to be a disciple? This scripture tells us to follow one commandment -- to love. Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (v.35). During this Easter season, who can you show love as part of your discipleship?
We continue our Easter People sermon series with an episode from the Book of Acts. Led by Peter, the apostles are sharing the good news of Jesus Christ's resurrection and healing the sick in his name. Concerned about the number of people that are believing this message, the Jewish religious authorities call the apostles before them and demand that they stop. Peter responds that they must obey God's call and repeat the story of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. "And we are witnesses to these things," Peter declares, "and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him." (v. 32) We too are witnesses to the life-changing power of resurrection in our own lives.
We continue our Easter People sermon series with another post-resurrection appearance of Jesus. His disciples have returned to Galilee as fishermen. After fishing all night and catching nothing, Jesus appears on the seashore and tells them to cast their nets on the other side. They haul a net full of fish and then race to greet their Lord and share a breakfast of broiled fish and bread. The Sacrament of Holy Communion is our shared meal with Christ and one another as we are fed by Jesus through his life, death and resurrection.
Jesus responds graciously to fear and doubt. The disciples hide behind doors, but Jesus enters their fear and speaks peace. Thomas doubts Jesus' resurrection, but Jesus doesn't shame him for doubting. Once Thomas bravely tells what he needs to believe, Jesus comes to him and gives him what he needs. What do we need in order to believe? How can our doubt turn into belief?