April 27, 2014
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Today we begin a sermon series on the book of Acts –
Sometimes called the Acts of the Apostles.
The book of Acts is a great book to study because for one thing it’s easy to read.
Much of Acts reads like a novel.
There are a lot of exciting stories in the book of Acts.
It’s also great book to study because it talks about the church,
what the church was called,
what the church did when they gathered together,
how they made decisions and dealt with disagreements.
The book of Acts is fun to read because it’s controversial!
Pope Francis took some criticism as he voiced his concerns about capitalism
a little while back.
Some of what he said is based on the way Christians lived in the time of the books the Acts.
You read the book of Acts and you have a lot to talk about at dinner parties!
For me, one of the most exciting reasons to read the book of Acts, though
is it tells about how Christians are to live in the world.
Some use the word ‘discipleship’ to describe the Christian life.
Acts talks a lot about discipleship…but that’s not the exciting part to me.
The exciting part to me is that the people in Acts – men and women, families –
demonstrate discipleship not just by the way they talk, but by the way they live.
When they become followers of Jesus,
Their entire lives are transformed.
The way they work changes.
The way they deal with money and property changes.
The way they relate to others changes.
Duke Divinity School Chaplain Will Willimon reminds us that
Jesus did not come to bring an interesting philosophy of life,
Jesus came to show a whole new way of living.
The followers of Jesus are transformed by him.
And we hear about how radical that transformation is,
In the book of Acts.
Willimon adds, that when non-believers ask us how we know the Bible to be true,
We won’t tell them, we will show them.
It won’t be the words we say, but it will be our lives.
The Acts of the Apostles won’t convince them…
But the Acts of Carmel and Norman and the Hasz family and the Bergner family might.
When we receive new members later this morning,
we’ll hear a reminder of the promises made at the beginning of our journeys of faith.
We’ll hear words like striving for justice and peace,
Hearing the word of God,
Coming to the Lord’stable…
If we can’t think of how our lives are different because
We are followers of Jesus,
Then it’s good to look again at the book of Acts.
And I encourage you to bring Bibles with you.
Bibles that you can underline, highlight, circle, and write in the margins.
Acts has so much to teach us…
Yes…it was Peter whose sermon we heard in our reading today.
When last we heard about Peter it was Holy Week.
And Peter was claiming that he didn’t know the man Jesus.
It’s hard to know which is worse…which would make us feel more guilty:
Is it worse to be like one of the disciples who ran away from Jesus?
Or is it worse to be like Peter and to actively deny him?
No wonder they were all hiding in the upper room
after Jesus had been resurrected.
Don’t you think they might have been just little bit nervous
About what Jesus was going to say to them now?
I’d guess most of us can relate very well to how the disciples acted
That first Holy Week.
Most of us have probably been in their situations at one time or another…
Sometimes, we’ve run away from trouble;
We’ve avoided getting involved;
We’ve turned the station on news we didn’t want to hear.
And at other times, we haven’t exactly run away,
But we haven’t acknowledged our own involvement either.
When things go wrong, we blame others –
The Democrats or the Republicans;
The rich or the poor;
The media, the schools, the churches.;
Latinos, blacks, gays, women, Muslims, fundamentalists,
We’ve allowed all sorts of groups to be scapegoated
For whatever ill faces our world.
Of course that gets us off the hook.
Peter got himself off the hook…temporarily.
But something happened between Holy Week and now.
Something happened to Peter that I’d call miraculous.
(and that is a plug for our Pub Theology group meeting later tonight!)
Something happened that changed him, transformed his life completely.
Something that I think took even more courage than leaving his boat to follow Jesus 3 years earlier –
Think about it…he could go back to fishing (and in fact he did!)
But once he makes this sermon,
he publicly acknowledges that he is indeed a follower of Jesus.
He makes a commitment from which he cannot turn back.
So what changed in Peter to give him such courage?
the Holy Spirit comes upon him.
God’s Spirit comes into Peter
“As a breath” the gospel of John says,
and Peter and the other disciples finally understand who Jesus is.
They realize that Jesus is the son of God who takes the blame on himself.
Jesus is the final scapegoat.
They are off the hook, not because of what they do,
But because of what Jesus did.
There is no more need to blame Democrats or Republicans,
Rich or poor,
Or anyone else, because
Jesus takes the sin of all the world on himself.
As we think about our endangered earth, on Creation Sunday,
It’s easy to think about someone else to blame…someone to scapegoat.
It’s easy to run away from the problem or ignore it.
But Peter reminds us today that the responsibility does not belong to someone else, it belongs to us.
If indeed our lives have been changed by the Holy Spirit…
If we are transformed because we are followers of Jesus…
(To paraphrase William Willimon),
If we know it to be true that God has entrusted this planet to our care…
How do others see that in our lives?
Our lives will be what convinces them,
Not our words.
Each week during our study of Acts, I’ll leave you with a question or challenge,
To think about, to talk or to tweet about in the coming week.
What is one thing you do to care for God’s creation in your life?
 Willimon, Will, “Interpretation Series: Acts Commentary”