My sermon notes for this Sunday express what I believe “the gospel” is about …
TEXT: Acts 2:36-41
TITLE: “What Shall We Do?”
THESIS: Heal and restore the world.
- True confession time today! – I don’t like to recycle. How many of you like to do it? …But how many know it is a good, even essential, thing for us all to do? – My oldest son started 30 years ago trying to get me to do it. I was slow to adopt the practice and still don’t always do it the way I know I should.
- What does this have to do with our text today? The question from the people – What shall we do? – demands an answer in our day … an answer that touches on every aspect of our lives.
- But, first, let’s consider how the Church has traditionally understood Peter’s answer….
- For 1600 years, Christians have focused on personal salvation and the question of what happens to us after we die. That’s not what Jesus focused on, and we’ll come back to that.
- If we read Peter’s answer to the people’s question as if it applies only to each individual, we have the traditional view: Repent of your sin – be sorry, confess it, and stop doing it – and God will forgive you and give you eternal salvation.
- In the words of a 1960s song (in a very different context) … “Is that all there is?” Is the whole gospel only about what happens to each of us individually? Whether I have repented and been saved, so I “know” I will go to heaven when I die? – No.
- So let’s consider a far more inclusive answer to the question of “what shall we do?” as it relates to “repentance and baptism”.
- In Luke 3, John the Baptist is warning the people about God’s wrath – which is how the people in Acts understood what Peter was saying as he accused them of crucifying Jesus. … And the people asked John the same question: “What should we do?” … John’s answer gets more to the heart of the matter:
- To the people: be generous with each other
- To the tax collectors: be honest and don’t cheat anyone
- To the soldiers: don’t lie and threaten people
- Jesus followed John’s ministry and expanded on John’s words in all his words and actions. “Here’s how you should live.” …. Be generous and honest….don’t lie or cheat or threaten other people … be humble, patient, compassionate.
- What we are to do in life has to do with how we treat other people – life is about loving God and others – serving God and others – doing for others what we want them to do for others – being good even to those who despise us and loving even our enemies.
- I read a book in the early ‘70s called “Why haven’t we changed the world?” The book came up with the wrong answer. – The answer is that we have been mostly concerned about saving ourselves – gaining God’s favor for ourselves – getting to heaven ourselves. … A self-centered religion!
- Jesus came to save the world! Not every individual in the world, but the world itself. To heal and restore God’s creation. (Think calming the storm) To heal and restore relationships between people, as well as with God. (Think “the prodigal son”) To heal and restore the poor, the injured, the weak, the outcast to a place of full inclusion in the community (Think most of his miracles).
- What shall we do? – Heal and restore the world around us. The kingdom of God is about this life – “thy will be done on earth.” …. Repentance is a change of life, a continuing transforming of our lives so we no longer live as the world around us does …. And baptism is a public witness to that change. How do we give public witness to what God is doing in this life and wants us to do in this world?
- We have remembered Earth Day again this week.
- In the midst of this pandemic, as people are “locked down,” the air and the rivers are being restored. – What shall we do when we “go back” to “normal life”?
- The world economy and people’s access to the basics of life – food and housing – are threatened. …. What shall we do?
- Many people are already acting out of their own self-interests, uncaring what happens to others – and protecting their own possessions and privilege. … What shall we do?
- If we love God and love others … What shall we do?