Sunday 10th May 2020
Call to Worship: ‘This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.’
Psalm 118: 24
Praise: Listen to or sing a hymn or psalm of praise.
Prayer: Slowly read Psalm 19:7-14 and then turn its beautiful words into a prayer. It might go something like this: Lord, your word is perfect, it revives my soul, gives joy to my heart and light to the eyes…it is more precious than gold…forgive my hidden faults and sins, wash them away, scrub in clean in your love and mercy….may my words be pleasing to You, my Lord, Rock and Redeemer….[then move on to the Lord’s Prayer…]
Reading: Acts Chapter 2: 14-41 Following the coming of the promised Holy Spirit, Peter stands up and addresses the crowd. This is the first Christian sermon….
Prayer: Take time now to pray for yourself, your family, our community and the Church. The week past saw the anniversary of VE Day, marking the end of the war in Europe 75 years ago. Give thanks in your prayers for those whose courageous sacrifice meant we can enjoy peace in our time. And pray too for those in the NHS and caring professions whose self-sacrifice in terms of time away from their own family and putting themselves at risk is saving lives today.
Reflection: Something’s Happened…What happens now? And don’t forget your PPE!
Today, we focus on Acts Chapter Two and the events of Pentecost and beyond. Last week we pondered how the Risen Christ met with His disciples over a period of 40 days speaking to them of the kingdom and their mission. Christ also told them to wait for an outpouring of His Spirit, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ Acts 1:8. Christ ascended and then it happened: Luke strains at the boundary of language to describe the coming of the Spirit, ‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.’ Acts 2:2-3.
Following what we now know as Pentecost, Peter at one time so hesitant and fearful, stands before the crowd filled with the confidence of God’s Spirit and preaches the first Christian sermon and what a sermon! He tells those gathered that something has happened: And through that ‘something’ God has acted as He always said He would, fulfilling all the prophets had spoken of long ago. Peter goes on to speak about all that had happened to God’s Son Jesus: the One who by the power of God performed miracles, wonders and signs, who was handed over to wicked men and put to death on the Cross, who was raised by God and now stands exalted at God’s right hand. In all this Peter hammers home the truth that Jesus who was crucified, raised, exalted is in truth Messiah and Lord.
We are told when the listeners heard this they were ‘cut to the heart’ and said to Peter and the others, ‘What shall we do?’ [What a great question!] Peter answers by making a demand and giving promises as he switches from, ‘Something’s happened’, to ‘here’s what needs to happen now’…Firstly the demand: Repent and be baptised. The word ‘repent’ is so easily spoken but so challenging to act upon. The word itself means ‘turning’: it means recognising our sin, our condition before a holy God, knowing we need a Saviour (Jesus Christ), and turning from our sin to that same Jesus (repentance), and in doing so joining the people of God. Repentance – a change of heart, mind and life, all made possible by the saving work of Christ. Repentance is the key when coming to faith. Scripture makes this crystal clear, ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’ (Mark 1:14)When we initially turn from our sin and put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we become a new person, a new creation. That only needs to happen once to become part of God’s people but there is also a continued need to keep coming to God day by day to seek His forgiveness through heartfelt prayer.
Having clearly set out the need for repentance, Peter moves on to the promises of God. Firstly, the promise of forgiveness. The word Peter uses for forgiveness literally means ‘release’. In Christ we are released from guilt and fear and free to know God and live as He calls us to live. And there’s the promise of the Holy Spirit: so, we are released from the past and have power for the present and future (v38). As one of our hymns puts it, ‘No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me…’
Peter stood up before the crowd. He recounted God’s plan, pointed to God’s Son, told the people what was required and 3,000 signed up and were added to the faithful that day. In all of this, Peter was telling them, ‘something’s happened’ followed by, ‘this is what needs to happen now’. We know that today in our lives, ‘something’s happened’…. Pandemic, lockdown, the world and our lives turned upside down….and as such, ‘what’s to happen now/ next’ remains a pertinent and very relevant question. And that word, ‘repent’ remains an important part of the answer because lockdown, difficult as it is, gives a great opportunity to take stock of our lives through asking questions like, ‘What is really important to me? Is there anything God is telling me to turn from? Is there anything I need to change? Any old routines that need to go?’ Come humbly and prayerfully to God with such questions and more, and another of God’s wonderful promises will flood our soul:
‘The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’. (Philippians 4:5-7)
Humble, thankful, honest prayer results in the peace of God as your PPE – your Personal Protective Equipment – like a hedge of protection around you. We hear of shortages of PPE in the news every day but there’s no shortage of it in the kingdom of God!
Something’s happened – Christ has ascended and poured out His Spirit. What happens now? Repent, be baptised (that is, join the community of God’s people), and you will receive God’s forgiveness and the gift of His Spirit. And don’t forget your PPE – the peace of God. Take a moment now to thank God for the encouragement of His Word, like balm to our souls, and for His wonderful promises…
Praise: Close your worship as you listen to or sing a hymn of thanksgiving and praise. (Perhaps: In Christ Alone/ Standing on the promises of God/ God of Grace amazing wonder/ Just as I am)
Benediction: May the love of God the Father, the peace of Christ the Son and the joy of the Holy Spirit, Three in One, surround you and encourage you, today and always. Amen.