May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight – for you are our Strength and our redeemer – Amen
Christ has risen! - The Lord has risen indeed – Alleluia
You might be thinking to yourself – wait a minute wasn’t that just something that we do on Easter?
Wasn’t Easter two weeks ago…?
Well Yes… and No
Good Friday was commemorated two weeks ago, where we marked the brutal death on the cross of Jesus of Nazareth at the will of the Jewish religious leaders and by the hands of the Roman occupying force
And then we all celebrated on the third day, Christ’s resurrection in what we call Easter
Change that, shared in the celebration of Easter – the celebration of which we all have a share in victory over death, and all that is death
And yes of course that was two weeks ago…
But we also joined and celebrated in worship with our Choir in the cantata the week before and then again last week with our young people with the Easter Pageant
And so you might be thinking… are we stretching our Easter celebrations out a little thin?
Well in fact, The Easter event is so large we celebrate it for a whole season, a season of seven Sundays - a week of Sundays.
Today is the 3rd Sunday IN Easter – we are in middle of the most significant season of the whole Christian year
And although we acknowledge other things through-out the year – each and every Sunday is a mini celebration of the FACT that Christ rose from the dead… for all of us
Even our modern calendar has been transformed around this world altering event
No longer is Saturday our Sabbath – but our Holy day is marked each week with the memorial of that first Sunday nearly 2000 years ago
The Gospel of John declares “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2He was in the beginning with God.3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. (John 1:1-3)
Time is one of those things that came into being through the Word, through Christ, Time is measured by our Lord – our very observance of years… we are in 2,011th year of our Lord
And each and every week – in Sunday, we are provided with a reminder of the Resurrection – of Easter
Whether we know it… or acknowledge it… or not, the very pattern of our life is shaped by Easter – shaped by our Lord and our Messiah
Marking or commemorating significant events is part of what humanity does
The earliest of believers, however, were still coming to grips with what had happened, just a short time before. And today we hear a powerful question posed to Peter and the other apostles
“Brothers, what should we do?”
Today we will hear a few of the most important suggestions of what we should do – things that have been done ever since for nearly 2000 years
During our seven week season of Easter; our first reading for each Sunday comes from the history book of the New Testament - the Acts of the Apostles. And IT tells the story of what the first followers of Jesus… did
Now it is true that our reading from Luke and our reading from Acts are a little out of sync – so let me explain why we have what we have this week
First off our passage from Luke, the story of the road to Emmaus, occurs on the third day
The very same day as what we call Easter
Cleopus and the other disciple are leaving Jerusalem in confusion of what has happen, both three days ago and that very day, the third day
And we have this story today, simply because it is part of the Easter season and today as well as two weeks ago, we are looking into understanding Easter more closely
Next we have our passage from Acts, which actually is part of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, which is 50 days after Easter and this sermon is delivered immediately after the Holy Spirit arrives.
Why, then, do we have 7 weeks of readings from Acts as part of the Easter season? …
It is because here Peter speaks the first public proclamation of the gospel offered in Acts, and he announces (among other things)… Jesus' resurrection
The sermon might have been given 50 days after Easter, but the topic… is all about Easter…
Last Sunday we heard Peter give the first part of his sermon on the Day of Pentecost; today we see the results of that sermon
Today, we hear Peter respond to the eternal question for all of us (once we understand Easter) “what should we do?”
Peter is firstly, asking the audience to change their minds about who they believe Jesus to be.
Peter is starting with declaring the focus: Jesus of Nazareth. And the sermon recounts the story of Jesus
He was the one who was "handed over you" and the one whom "you crucified and killed" through the agency of the Roman government.
And Jesus was also God's own focus in the story: the one who was "attested to you by God," the one through whom God worked, and the one whom "God raised."
Note the contrast in what was done with Jesus, and the dramatic reversal: you killed him, but God raised him.
The main point of Peter's sermon is to construe the execution, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus as the basis for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The resurrected and ascended Jesus himself pours out the Spirit, precisely because He now is enthroned at God's right hand.
It is important to note that not only does Peter's sermon in Acts 2 powerfully interpret what has happened;
Peter’s sermon causes something to happen
This is how proclamation works, in the hands of the Spirit.
Peter's interpretation of the Christ event and arrival of the Holy Spirit brings the assembled crowd to a point of recognition about themselves and about God. To which they respond asking…
"Brothers, what should we do?"
….Peter lays out a simple formula that we have been following ever since…
Baptism, in the name of Jesus Christ…
So that your sins may be forgiven…
And Peter declares that - The promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him(Acts 2:39)
The Good news – the Gospel message is that: Despite their overwhelming sense of guilt, the killing of Jesus has not created an impasse between the guilty… and God - their sins are not unforgivable.
Repentance is offered and with that the promise of new life in Christ
New life in Christ…. Alleluia, Christ is risen indeed… and we have a share of it
Yet, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not always how the church has expressed itself
Consider the understanding of many people who are outside the church, and even many who are within
Consider the judgement that many people feel is a primary role of the church
How easily and quickly the church can sometimes act to burn the bridge between guilt and forgiveness.
To illustrate this I would like to share with you a story by Tony Campola
You see Tony Campola is a wonderful Christian speaker, he is dynamic and engaging and has made numerous Videos and written numerous books
So he is asked to speak to people all over the world and certainly all over the US
On one such American visit, he was up late at night, he tells the story that the conference was so engaging that he couldn’t sleep
So he went out to grab a late night coffee
The hotel was in a downtown of a major city and the people that were in the late night diner were typical of the late night
While sitting at the counter, Tony struck up a conversation with the person seated next to him - a Prostitute
After some time he was asked what he did for a living, and as he shared her the conversation naturally moved into Tony sharing the Gospel, the good news about Jesus
She was clearly engaged and even asked how she could learn more
Tony, invited her to church the following Sunday
And her response was “Church, why would I do that, I already feel guilty enough...”
Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, tells a difficult message – Jesus whom you crucified.
And then responds to their guilt laded question “what should we do?”
By offering Forgiveness – Repentance and Baptism in the name of the Lord
And yet we the church, have a reputation to some people as burning the bridge between guilt and forgiveness.
The people upon receiving the Holy Spirit, by the proclamation of Peter participated in a huge baptismal service – it is said that 3000 were baptized in a single day
In this intentional and visible act, it becomes the clearest manifestation of their repentance
To this day – we respond, and begin our journey in faith – responding to the question
“Brothers, what should we do”
With Baptism in the name of Jesus
Here at Farringdon, we are often asked by people that are not members of the church about Baptism
Each time I invite the candidate or parents to meet with me and talk about Baptism
Over the time, I always come to the point of explaining that Baptism is a Sacrament
Which raises the inevitable question – what is a sacrament?
And the simplest best definition I have found is over 1700 years old
St Augustine said – A Sacrament is a visible sign of God’s invisible grace
What this means is that we do something to commemorate an event
It is an event both in history and it is an event right there in that moment
It is something that we do to remember the work of the Holy Spirit in the beginning of the church at Pentecost and it is something that we do to invite the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives
It is the beginning of a life in Faith
And it is asking God into our lives’ of faith
It is a response to the question – “Brothers, what shall we do”
Most importantly – with the visible sign of water – we have at work… God… – it is not how I hold my hands or even if I say all the right words
Because we believe that it is God at work, not the property of the Church… it is for this reason that we welcome all who ask about Baptism – all who want to begin the life of faith
All who accept and invite the Holy Spirit into their lives
It is God at work – and it is our participation that in these things, that we will know the Lord
Baptism – is one of two things that we Protestants called sacraments
The second is communion, or Eucharist, or the Lord Supper
And today, we are blessed with wonderful story about communion – we have the story of Disciples on the Road to Emmaus
To quickly recap, we have Cleopus and another disciple walking away from Jerusalem and towards Emmaus, some 7 miles away
They are confused about what has happened
To them Friday is not yet Good… and they haven’t grasped that Christ has risen from the dead earlier that day
And though their eyes don’t see Jesus for who He is at first – Jesus joins them in their walk and opens up the scriptures to their understanding – basically he did a bible study with them
Once they reach Emmaus Jesus is set to continue on when they invite their wisdom speaking journey companion to join them for something to eat
And then it happens… as Jesus breaks the bread and shares it with them
Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him
We have ever since followed the teachings of Jesus as we join together with each other and together with God – when we share the sacrament of Communion
It is one of the ways how we respond to the question “what shall we do”
And most importantly it is one of the ways… in these things, we will know the Lord
God wants us to know Him, God wants us to participate with Him
God gives us tools to participate with Him
In the water… in the bread… and the fruit of the vine
In these things, we will know the Lord
So even when we determine people to be far, or farther from God than others, lack of proximity does not eliminate them from access to God's promises.
When denominations, churches, or individuals judge persons to be far from God's gifts and promises.
The resurrection of Jesus serves as a perennial testimony of how God's acts are not our acts… and are at times diametrically opposed to our acts.
When God raised and exalted Jesus,
God defied the boundaries of human knowledge and experience, not by solving the mystery of life and death
But by reasserting, in a new way, God's power over both.
Remember – it IS God’s grace – not ours
It is God’s mercy…
It is God’s provision in the things of the sacraments
It is an offer for us to know the Lord
It is something that the early disciples did… and something we do
Do these things in Remembrance of Him, and we will know the Lord
Heavenly Father, by your divine grace you have provided for us your only Son, as our Lord and Messiah, may we as students, as apprentices of the master find direction… purpose… and YOU… in all that we do - Amen