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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Peter's Second Sermon (Acts 3.6-26)

Sermon by: Robert Austell - June 8, 2014 (Pentecost)
Text: Acts 2:1-13,37-39

:: Sermon Audio (link) - scroll down for written draft  
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:: Some Music Used
Gathering Music: Rick Bean, jazz piano
Song of Praise: "Raise Up the Crown/All Hail the Power" (arr. Tomlin)
Hymn of Praise: "Join All the Glorious NAmes" (DARWALL)
Offering of Music: Rick Bean, jazz piano
Song of Sending: "Jesus, Name Above All Names" (Hearn)
Postlude: Rick Bean, jazz piano

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)  
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.
11 While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. 12 But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 “But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. 16 “And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. 17 “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22 “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. 23 ‘And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 “And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:11-26)
Electric typewriters became commonplace in the late 70s… many of you probably remember those. We had one at the church until just a few years ago. I remember playing on one at my dad’s office when I was a kid. Word processors starting coming out in the late 80s and were highly advised for students by the time I went to college in the early 90s. In fact, I earned some good spending money in college by typing other students’ papers on one of those early word processing programs. Throughout all that, my dad continued to type on the manual typewriter he had owned since college (or perhaps even high school?!). I remember thinking that if anyone would truly LOVE a word processor or computer, it would be my dad. I remember how he would create different size fonts by typing something on his manual typewriter, then enlarging it on the copy machine at work, something one could do on a word processor with the touch of a key. I would show him fancy flyers and documents, even creating them right in front of him on my laptop in the mid-90s, but he would stick to his manual typewriter and advanced copy machine technique. And then one day his manual typewriter was no more. There was no one who could repair it and no parts were available to do so. I remember saying, “Not only can you make this change, these word processors were made just for people like you! You will absolutely love it!” And finally he did make the change; and he did love it. Bold, italic, underline, font-sizes, different fonts, COLORS! You should have seen how he ran with it.

That experience reminds me of the story in Acts 3. There a group of people witnessed the miraculous healing of the man begging at the Beautiful Gate. They were amazed, but unbelieving. They wanted to know what was going on, but they had already rejected the answer to what was going on. And Peter led them through a process not unlike the one I lived through with my dad. He told the underlying story so that they would know what was going on; and he invited them to change their mind, not only that they might understand, but because what was going on was just for people like them! This was not just an interesting side-story; this was THEIR story, and Peter wanted them to receive it.

There and Back Again

Last week Royallen preached to us from the text right before this in Acts 3. It was the story of the encounter between Peter, John, and a lame man begging at the Beautiful Gate. Most notably, Peter and John did not have silver and gold to give him, but gave him what they did have, namely Jesus, saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!” (v. 6) Our text picks up right after that, with people rushing to the scene to see the miracle. They are described as “full of amazement.” (v. 11) It is at this point that Peter begins to speak, giving the second sermon of his recorded in Acts.

Peter asks the crowd, “Why are you amazed… why do you gaze at us, as if by our power or piety we made him walk?” (v. 12) It’s a great question, setting Peter up to talk about Jesus, the source of that power and, as Peter said earlier, what he DOES have to share. But first, Peter is going to walk the crowd through the whole story about Jesus, starting with “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers.” (v. 13) He goes from there to remind the crowd that only weeks ago they had exchanged Jesus’ life for the murderer, Barabbas, and cried out for his crucifixion. (vv. 13b-14) But Peter also gives witness to the resurrection, again pointing to the power and plan of God. (v. 15) It is this same power and this same Jesus that Peter names as the source of the man’s healing and the real reason they should be amazed.

Then in good Jewish fashion, Peter takes a second run through the story, pointing to the promises of God “announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets”… much that we read and discussed all spring as we looked at Jesus’ quotation of the Old Testament scriptures. (vv. 17-18) And Peter moves from that religious history lesson to a personal invitation – to “repent and return.” (v. 19) Peter has told the story of God twice, reminded the people of their culpability before God, and now invites them to return to God. There are several consequences that will follow that repentance and returning: 1) “that your sins may be wiped away”; 2) “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”; 3) “that He may (again) send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you.” (vv. 19-20)

In even better Jewish fashion, Peter returns a third time to the story, noting that Moses prophesied these things: “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says.” (v. 22) And Peter reminds them that “all the prophets… have spoken… from Samuel and his successors onward.” (v. 24)

Finally, to underscore the invitation to return and repent, Peter reminds the people “it is YOU who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant.” (v. 25) It is “for you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” (v. 26)

Do you follow what he is saying? Though the people are drawn to the miraculous, they rejected the true miracle of God’s Messiah, Jesus. Yet Jesus is not only what they really are looking for, but also God’s intended gift FOR them, planned and covenanted from ancient times (and even before!). Said another way, “you may think a lame man walking is something, but God has done something even more extraordinary for YOU; come to him and receive it!”

It reminds me of the feeding of the 5,000. The crowd was drawn to this miracle with fish and bread, but Jesus insisted that feeding hungry stomachs was not the real miracle. Rather, it was the Bread of Heaven – God’s provision for spiritually hungry people. When that crowd thought he was then talking about Moses and the really famous miracle of manna, Jesus insisted all the more: “No, I mean ME; God has sent ME to you.” (John 6)

Peter is consistent and insistent; he has nothing to offer except Jesus. And that’s just what he does; he shows them Jesus, the one God sent to them despite their betrayal, as promised to them from the beginning.

Ordinary People, Extraordinary God

Last week Royallen finished with a really compelling image, that Good Shepherd is a kind of “Beautiful Gate” where we experience the presence and power of God. And that is true! But don’t confuse the Beautiful Gate for the Beautiful Savior. Let me retell today’s encounter through the lens of this church.

This is a wonderful place; I have been drawn to the compassion, community, and care of this place as many of you have. I love the people; I love the ministry; I love the worship. I love how music and art have become part of who we are and what we do. I love the rich diversity of ages and experiences. I love the freedom to not pretend to have everything together, to be honest and open and struggle together. I see people drawn here and surprised, touched, moved, welcomed, found, belonging, and even amazed.

Sometimes, maybe even much of the time, we are also the ones who have lost our way, given up on God, struggling to believe; at times we are even those who have betrayed and denied and turned away from God. Yet we know something is going on here. It’s not unlike those who saw something unusual, something MORE, at the Beautiful Gate that day.

And what I want to tell you is what I think Peter would tell you. As great as all this is, from the music to the people to the warm fellowship, the real treasure to be found here is Jesus. I know that can sound clich√©, but I mean it with every fiber of my being. That is what is extraordinary about this place. At the end of the day, we are ordinary people gathered around an extraordinary God. And if we enjoy all the rest but miss what God has done and is doing through Jesus Christ right here, we’ve missed the main thing, the treasure, the real amazing thing.

Because like those to whom Peter spoke, it is precisely for YOU, a collection of rebellious, doubting, struggling, sin-filled people, that God shows up here. That is the Good News message: that God has come for you, God invites you, God wants you, and God uses you. YOU! …and me! Can you believe that?

I am glad you are here today, for whatever reason you are here. But listen to God’s Word through Peter: God is here today for you. Let that sink in and soak in. Maybe you need to hear it for the first time. Maybe you need to repent and return. Maybe you need to be reminded. Whatever the reason you are here today, know that God is here… for you. Halleluiah, Amen.

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