June 11, 2023, And They Devoted Themselves, Pentecost 2

Image by pchow98 via Flickr

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.
Holy Spirit, come alongside of us, comfort and counsel us, speak through us, and empower us to do God’s will. Amen.

HYMN Because He Lives
Because He Lives (Live At Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, SC/2018)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1omW3FWRXY

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Dear Lord, This morning as I contemplate a new day, I ask you to help me. I want to be aware of your Spirit—leading me in the decisions I take, the conversations I have, and the work I do. I want to be more like you, Jesus, as I relate to the people I meet today—friends or strangers. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Breathe on Me, Breath of God  
Breathe on me, Breath of God (with Lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ph-t8P2r_I

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: And They Devoted Themselves
Text: Acts 2:37-47, Matthew 4:17-19, 28:18-20, 1 Timothy 2:3-4
Series: The Greatest Story Ever Retold

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

43 And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

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HYMN We’ve A Story To Tell to The Nations 
We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations – Harvest
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwFzG9diulI

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

We are looking at the book of Acts. We are looking at what God did in the season of Pentecost back then …. but asking the question, if we deeply understand then, how does God want to act in the season of Pentecost now? And there are four things, and this is quite interesting – There are four things that they did as the church began in the book of Acts. Those four things, I think, can really help us today.

But first, let’s have a parable. Sunday school class has started. About 10 minutes into the lesson, class members begin to notice that a woman in the back row is crying very softly. When her weeping becomes obvious to everyone, the class leader gently asks what is wrong. She shares that her boyfriend left her the night before, and she continues to cry inconsolably. What would happen next?

What would happen next in your class? And that reveals something. And what it reveals is the agenda.

This is a picture of a marching band. They have worked very hard. Hours and hours of practice to develop their skills, to develop their coordination, to be able to move down the street, playing perfectly in rhythm. There is no time during a task-oriented activity for everybody to stop because one of the band members has had a bad day and is weeping. We’re in the middle of a sermon; it’s a task. There is no time for us to stop for you to raise your hand and say, “Pastor, I’m not sure I understand that particular part.” (By the way, do you know the only time a speech is given in the United States where no one is allowed to ask a question is a sermon? You know why that is? No one wants church to go longer so that the Baptists get to the restaurant first!) And you see, if there was a problem with our church today, it’s because, I think, we have become very focused on tasks. But I do have to acknowledge when we work together, when we prepare, when we practice, when we focus on doing the best that we can, we can do some amazing things.

The problem is the agenda for a task-oriented program or event can’t be the person among us who is weeping in the background. And I think we’ve missed something because of that.

Here’s the other kind of meeting in the church. The Greek word is Koinonia; we translate it as fellowship, but to be honest, that’s not what the word means. The word actually means partners. You’re going to sit down with your partners and have a meeting. And I would like to suggest to you, typically that meeting is like a family. Where, if you’re sitting around the table and someone is obviously upset, the family is going to take time to listen. The family is going to take time to encourage each other. The dad is not going to say, “Now we’re here to eat, so keep eating. We’re on a schedule. Supper can’t take too long.” Because the agenda in this kind of meeting is the people who are there.

If you’re in a Sunday school class and it has this kind of agenda, then the whole class becomes about crying and grieving, and how we can help one another. If you’re in a task-oriented class– and, of course, in the public schools and elsewhere, the tasks are important. Somebody would step aside with the person who’s crying, but we would get back to the material because the purpose is to get through the material. Each type of group has their place in the church.

But the astonishing thing is how this type of group with a relationship agenda was so important to the church in Acts. Let me tell you what the four things are. At the end of Peter’s sermon, Acts 2:41, it says those who received his word were baptized and there were added that day about 3,000 souls. So The Church of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost, how many members? 3,000.

Now, if 3,000 people start trying to find a place to park around this church on Sunday morning, I would just be thrilled. But there’s at least somebody who would say, “Oh my God. We’re going to need so many committees to make decisions and tell those people what to do.” See, here’s the astonishing thing, in the book of Acts, there are 3,000 people and no committees. None whatsoever. No committees. Because they’re not focused on the task. They’re focused on the people.

So what are the four things that they devote themselves to?
Number one, the apostles teaching.

Number two, this kind of group that focuses on the needs of people, which uses the word fellowship, but is actually more like partnership.

Number 3, and in those small groups, there is the breaking of bread. Now, two things about that. Until 1 Corinthians, these small groups would meet for supper. But the phrase breaking of bread is a phrase that refers to Holy Communion. They would have supper, just like the Passover meal on Maundy Thursday, but they would also have communion in these small groups that were focused on people.

And the fourth thing they did is they would go to the prayers. Now, the Greek word there literally means places of prayer. But we pretty much understand from the context, it means that they would go to the worship services in the temple. And the prayer services in the temple, there would be at least three every day; one in the morning, one in the afternoon, one in the evening. And the early Christians, all 3,000 of them, attended those services at the temple.

These are the four things that they did. And those four things worked then. I think they’ll work very well now.

First, let’s dispel some misunderstandings. They did not have time to come up with new methods of being a church. There was no group of seminary professors or consultants that came in and said, with 3,000 people, this is now what you have to do to organize yourself as a church. Jesus would draw a crowd around himself, and I think what they did in Acts is exactly what Jesus had always been doing, and in fact, it’s my belief that the Book of Acts, they are looking for Jesus to do again, everything that he did before … because John 20:21 says, “As the Father has sent me, Jesus said, even so, I send you.” So Jesus is saying that everything the Father did through me, now you’re going to see the same sorts of things happening.

So this idea of organizing people into small groups that would care for each other, this is exactly what Jesus did. Out there in the wilderness, people would sit down in groups, let’s say of about 12, and the disciples and the other experienced followers of Jesus would sit in with a group and would talk with them – because they would have conversations.

Let’s do the math. So you’ve got 3,000 people in the church on the day of Pentecost. That’s 250 groups of 12. One of the first things Jesus did, of course, is he gathered together 12 people, 12 people at the time. And there were 120 experienced Christians in the Upper Room. That meant that each one of them could meet with one group on Tuesday and another group on Thursday, and every single one of those 3,000 people would be loved and cared and watched over. And the world’s largest churches today still operate in this way. They form small groups, maybe a few less than 12, maybe a few more than 12, but the agenda is always the needs of the people.

So what is the apostolic teaching? Here’s what I would suggest. The disciples always wanted to talk about what did Jesus say about this because, what Jesus told us to do, what Jesus said is always going to be the primary thing that we need to understand. But beyond that, these groups where people mattered and people set the agenda, I think, had a very powerful way to change the lives of people.

Now, what you’re looking at here in this picture is what’s called a bell curve. You take a typical group of people and identify any issue and in an average way, people will break down into groups at this kind of bell curve. For example, there are some people who are incredibly excited about baseball. There are some people who are not excited about baseball. There will be a standard deviation in the group.

We mentioned this last week, but 16% of a group of people, whether it’s public school students, whether it’s a village like Kinmundy, whether it’s a corporation or a church, 16% of people are able to learn from information. So all you need to do is give them a lecture, or give them a textbook, or give them a pamphlet, or tell them to watch a YouTube video. That works for them. But what the sociological science known as the Diffusion of Innovation says is that when it comes time for people to change their lives, to adopt a new way of living, a new way of being, 16% of people, all you have to do is explain it to them,

But 84% of people, however, learn by having conversations with people who’ve been through it. Consequently, we know that if you want to create a change in a society, for example, to help alcoholics stop drinking, you have two groups of people: 16% of people, you can help them with information. You can have a TV show or a news broadcast, 60 Minutes, but 84% of people who struggle with this problem can only be reached by conversations with someone who has overcome it in their life. If you’ve ever heard of Alcoholics Anonymous or ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, you know that what they do is they sit down and they have conversations, and people’s lives change.

I think the same is true with every kind of transformation. If there’s something in your life you want to let go of, you want there to be a change, 84% of people need to find someone that they can have a conversation with. So if you want to help people make a positive change in their life, you will find a way to have conversations because that works with the 84% who are not really reached by any other activity, certainly not reached very well.

This was the basis for what was called the Wesley Class Meeting. A couple of centuries ago, John Wesley would organize people into small groups, generally people who lived in the same geographical neighborhood, and they’d get together one night a week at someone’s home, and the class leader would ask the question, “How is it with your soul?” Now the question can be different. It can be, “What does Acts, Chapter Two, have to say to us about living our lives today?” The question could be, “How are you trying to pray for and help your neighbor?” The question can be anything, but once the question is shared, then everyone has the opportunity to speak.

I will say to you that, generally speaking, pastors have great problems letting other people speak without wanting to bring up the dump truck of information and share lots of information with people. Pastors like me! Pastors sometimes have to learn to sit on their hands so that everyone has a chance to speak because that’s what works to change lives.

In this kind of meeting where the agenda is that you get to say what you need to say, where the agenda is everybody listens and everybody responds, where caring and love go back and forth, I think everyone needs that kind of support. We need a lot more of it in our church today.

If you want to guide young people into all that is good, if you want to help them understand what it means to be forgiven of what is not good, if you really want to help 84% of people, you will need to take time to have conversations because that’s how those people learn. If you want people to learn how to do a new thing, perhaps how to live life as Jesus encourages us, how to be a Christian, how to study the Bible, whatever it is that you would want them to learn, somebody has to show them and be with them because that’s how they learn.

And all too often, in the church today, we don’t pay attention to helping people … to be that big brother to help the little brother learn how to do a hard thing. It’s something they got right in the Book of Acts. And it would really help us if we did more of that. Somewhere on the bulletin – it moves around to different places – you will see this phrase, “We are a functional family of God where Jesus is Lord and people grow.” That is the vision statement of our church, what we would like our church to be like, that when we are at our best we function more like a family than a corporation. And because we function more like a family, everyone gets a chance to have their say.

And the overall result of those conversations is that Jesus becomes Lord and people grow. This is what we want. And we need each other, so I want to suggest, let’s do more of this. We do not need more committees, but I think we need more of these kinds of conversations.

And so here’s how it all comes together, Acts 2:46, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they took food with glad and generous hearts, praising God, and having favor with all the people.” And because they were involved with each other in this way, “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Friends, being the preacher, I want more sermons. Being the teacher, I want to give more lectures. And I want to assign homework! But I have to be honest with you, that doesn’t work for 84% of the people who need help in this life or who need Jesus Christ in this life. What helps them most is conversations with people like you. And hopefully, I can learn to also listen and have a conversation, too.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, help us to understand that when the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us, we can listen with God’s guidance. When the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us, Lord, sometimes we could say something because, Lord, you give us what to say in that time because you have a desire to speak through us. And so, Lord, the conversations that we have with other people, may those conversations change their lives. Lord, may it so be that problems would be solved, that addictions would be resolved, that people would learn to get along and to listen to each other. Lord, I pray that you would minister to our community through our conversations led by You, the Holy Spirit. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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