June 19, 2011

Peter's Sermon

Happy Father's Day to all the men in our lives who have impacted us with love, care, guidance, discipline, and all the things that make us wise adults. Happy Father's Day to the men who have been a glimpse of God the Father to each of us. Give thanks for them.

We’re looking at the men and women, changed by the Holy Spirit, found in the Book of Acts. The first one we meet is Peter. Like many of us, Peter struggled with understanding his place in God’s plan.

As Jesus’ disciple, we see him boldly proclaiming “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:15), but the next minute he is rebuking and being rebuked by Jesus. (Matthew 16:22-23). We see him bravely stepping out on the water (Matthew 14:28) but sinking “when he saw the wind…he cried out, ‘Lord save me.’” (Matthew 14:30). He denies Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest (Matthew 26:69-75). However, when fishing after the Resurrection he “sprang into the sea” to get to Jesus on the shore. (John 21:7-8)

In Acts 1:15-22, he appears to have taken on leadership of the group when he suggests “one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us…must become with us a witness to this resurrection.”

It is Peter who addresses the crowd in Acts 2:14-17. His first words are a refutation of the rumor that he and the others are drunk. “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh…’”

He goes on to make an amazing and perhaps inflammatory claim. “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know…you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power...” (Acts 2:22-24)

Peter’s first sermon has an amazing affect on the crowd. Rather than turning on him as a blasphemer or madman, “those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.” (Acts 2:41) The uneducated fisherman from Galilee was changed by the Holy Spirit and spoke with power not with fear. Unlike the vacillating, frightened man in the courtyard of Caiphas, Peter knew and believed “God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)

Aren’t we like Peter? We can be bold and brave with our faith one minute, cowering and uncertain the next. What is different about Peter after the Resurrection and esp. after Pentecost?

Peter was transformed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He spoke boldly and he remained in the community of faith. “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.” (Acts 2:47)

We are not supposed to be alone in our walk with God. John Wesley once said, “There is no such thing as a solitary Christian.” Friends in faith are a living example of the lesson found in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. “Two are better than one…For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help…A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

I have a church family, I belong to church ministries, and I have a small group of close Christian women who I meet with regularly for support. They are important to my continuing Christian walk. We pray for each other when things go badly, “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15). Do you have Christian friends who can support you and encourage you?

God does not mean for us to ‘go it alone.’ That is why we were given the Holy Spirit and the community of faith. Like Peter, we vacillate. Like Peter, we can be bold and proclaim our faith. Brothers and sisters in Christ can help us grow in the Lord as we help them. We can be like the first converts who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

Next week we will see what happened to Peter and John as they continued to act in the power of the Spirit of the Living God. Meanwhile, I challenge you to find a small group of fellow Christians to walk with on your journey. It will make a difference.

Check out the new "Prayer" page, too on this blog, and join in praying for those in need.

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