Sermon Options: April 23, 2023

March 27th, 2020


ACTS 2:14a, 36-41

The good news is that "the entire house of Israel [should] know with certainty that God has made [Jesus] both Lord and Messiah" (v. 36). The Messiah has come. Rejoice! Jesus is Lord. Alleluia! The long-awaited One has finally arrived. All that our forebears yearned for has now come to full fruition in our lifetimes. We are the fortunate ones, for we are alive now and we get to know and experience the Christ in the flesh. We are a blessed people. How quickly good news can turn to bad news, for Peter quickly adds this zinger: "This Jesus whom you crucified." What a dramatic and abrupt turn of events! For ten verses, he details the glories of having the Messiah arrive and catches us all up in the excitement of the moment, and then he tells us that we crucified this Messiah.

I. We Are Involved
Make no mistake. It was not the Jews who killed Jesus—it was humankind. It was not a character flaw in one nationality that produced the Crucifixion—it was a character flaw in humankind that crucified our Lord. The character flaw is called sin. Karl Menninger titled his book, Whatever Happened to Sin? The answer is, it is where it has always been: at the center of our lives. Every chance we get we are going to bite the apple, turn to God, who told us not to, and say, "Who do you think you are? God or somebody? I will do what I want in order to please me." That's called sin, and that attitude needs to be altered (or should I say "altared"?).

II. We Have a Troubled Reaction
Peter's hearers were "cut to the heart." Other translators say they were "pricked in their heart" (KJV), "deeply troubled" (GNB), and "cut to the quick" (Phillips). Some events in life will do that to us. They return us to our beginnings and remind us why we are here on earth, or they make us question our reason for being. What is the purpose of all this? "Brothers, what should we do?" (v. 37).

The killing of a Savior is such an event. The award-winning movie "Schindler's List" reminded millions of people of the atrocities of the Nazis, but what really frightened viewers was the unveiling of the Nazi within all of us. When we make that discovery, we are "cut to the heart" and cry out, "What should we do?"

III. We Are Called to Turn from Sin
The gospel's answer for "deeply troubled" people is to call for a change of direction. If you want to get out of trouble, then change your life. Confess your wrong attitude and open yourself to the gift of the Holy Spirit. God has promised that God's power is available through God's Spirit (Acts 1:4-5, 8; Luke 24:49) . Claim it! "For the promise is for you" (v. 39). Claim this promise of Jesus Christ.

Donald Shriver pointed out how an eminent psychiatrist remarked in a speech, "The greatest secret of mental health comes down to us in the words, 'Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life...will save it.' I forget who said that, but it is a great truth." "Too bad!" said Shriver. "Who said it is as important as what was said" (Christian Century, February 2-9, 1994).

Sometimes names are important, but sometimes it doesn't make any difference who said it or what you call it. When Reuben Mattus, a Polish immigrant, died, few people recognized his name. Yet he was the multimillionaire who decided that New Yorkers would not buy his ice cream unless it sounded different. He came up with the name for his ice cream that we now all recognize, Haagen-Dazs. Haagen-Dazs means absolutely nothing in any language. It was a nonsensical name, but it caught people's attention because it sounded intriguing. When Jesus says something, you know that Someone stands behind it. His name stands for something. It is not just intriguing. It is authoritative. It says something vitally important. When you give your life to Jesus, you don't lose anything. You find eternal life. (C. Thomas Hilton)


1 PETER 1:17-23

Many Christians sing the old hymn "Take Time to Be Holy." That hymn warms a multitude of hearts, but it leaves others asking what holiness is all about. Simon Peter addressed that issue in the first chapter of his first letter. Holiness is not a word that slides easily off modern tongues. But it never has been easy to live a holy life. Let's consider what it is and how we may make it part of our lives.

I. Holiness Is Necessary Because God Is Impartial
Few people would want to go to court if they knew the judge was prejudiced against them. We want an impartial judge. Simon Peter proclaims that Christians are the children of God, who judges impartially. He is both Father and impartial judge. The two roles might seem contradictory. If God is my Heavenly Father, shouldn't God also be inclined to favor me? The good news of the gospel is that because God is not prejudiced against anyone, all are potentially God's children. A holy life, a life marked by the love of God and others, brings us into a Father-child relationship with God.

II. Holiness Is Possible Because We Have a Different Value System
People who live in a holy relationship with God get a different value system from the rest of humanity. Peter calls us strangers who live above the level of "perishable things." We value ideals and goals that people who do not know God do not value. On the other hand, we discard things that some people would kill for. People who live a life of holy dedication to God are transformed. In a sense we are exiles all our lives, but we are on a pilgrimage to another place. That other place is eternal life with God. But how do we achieve that eternal life? Consider another vital fact.

III. Holiness Is Available Because We Have a Redeemer
Verses 19-23 shift the focus to what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. We are not called on to struggle alone or achieve holiness by superhuman accomplishments. Instead, Christ himself has given us what we need to enter this holy relationship with him.

Listen closely to the language Peter uses here. Christ has given his "precious blood," and he is a "lamb without...blemish." He was revealed in order to redeem humankind. He was raised from the dead and glorified. Because of that, we have been "purified" and "born anew." This language is pregnant with meaning. Anyone even slightly familiar with the Bible realizes that these terms signify that God has done for us what we cannot accomplish alone. So take time to be holy. The trip is worth the price. (Don M. Aycock)


LUKE 24:13-35

It is a seven-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Two men were walking home toward Emmaus. Somewhere along the way a third person joined them. The new arrival noted the downcast look and the hopelessness shrouding the two. The third person did not seem to know what everyone else knew. Although he had been in Jerusalem, he did not act as if he had heard—he had not heard the shout of a mob, the sound of the lash, the clang of a hammer against spikes.

I. Memories Can Bring Pain
On the trip, the two recounted their memories of the past week in Jerusalem. They told their traveling companion everything they could remember. They spoke of the crowds and the acclamations just the week before. They told of Jesus' teaching in the Temple. The conflict with the Pharisees. The trials, the beating, the Crucifixion, the burial—all were presented.

II. Memories Can Bring Insight
Then the traveler told them about other memories. He spoke of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He related stories of Saul, David, and Solomon. He disclosed memories of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. He spoke of achievement and disappointment, banishment and renewal, faith and unfaith. As the third traveler explained and remembered the two remembered what they had not forgotten. As they neared the end of their walk, the two residents of Emmaus followed the example of their forefathers, offering their house as a refuge. It was too late to go on that day. They offered the hospitality commanded by God through Moses.

It was a simple meal. They handed the stranger the bread so he could break off a portion.

III. Memories Can Bring Transformation
Then, a miracle occurred. As the stranger broke the bread, they remembered who he was. He was the One who had ridden the donkey into the city. He was the One who had been lashed. He had been nailed to the cross. He was the hope of Israel, a hope that seemed crushed with his death. The Romans were still in power. The people of God were still a captive nation. In remembering, the travelers from Jerusalem to Emmaus discovered a new reality about the events of the past.

The text from Luke illustrates how God reveals himself when we remember. The walk to Emmaus of past centuries can be our walk of remembrance. The three travelers remembered the history of their people. They remembered how God had visited them. Their memories were more than memories. A new reality came to be; a new experience was born in them. "Were not our hearts burning within us," was their memory.

Those two travelers had never experienced such a reality before. Their past was transformed. Their present became their future, new and different. Remembering is more than a thought. Remembering is a new reality. Remembering creates something more than what we remembered from the past. Remembering is a reality that reveals the constant truths of life. Remembering sets us on a journey that does not end. Remembering does make our hearts feel warm. We remember the words, "He is risen!" In the remembering, that revealing truth comes afresh and anew for us. We experience anew the power and presence of God. He has come to us! We are made fresh through his power. The power of God, which brought Jesus Christ out of the bonds of death, brings us to true life. The power of God in Jesus who walks beside us brings us to life, true and powerful life. (Harold C. Perdue)

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