“I Came Because” April 30, 2023
“I Came Because”
Acts 2:42-47/ 1 Peter 2:19-25
(Acts 2:42 NIV) 42 “The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. 43 A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. 44 All the believers were united and shared everything. 45 They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. 46 Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. 47 They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.”
When Luke set himself to write what we know of as the Acts of the Apostles, His mission was fairly obvious: Luke meant to record, as best he could, The events and happenings Of the Apostles in the years following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By way of review, I guess, we might touch upon the difference between an apostle and a disciple. This article from study.com explains: “An apostle is a “messenger” or “one who is sent” while a disciple is a “student” or “learner.” Apostles were primarily people who had met and followed Jesus during his life and were called by him to spread the gospel. Disciples were simply any of Jesus’ followers who devoted themselves to learning from him.” In other words, apostles were disciples of Christ who were called upon to continue his ministry.
When I sit down to prepare a message for us all on Sunday mornings, one of the first things that I like to do is to figure out a basic theme in the scripture passages that we have read that particular day. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes not so much. Today’s readings started with the 23rd Psalm, Which Sets the bar fairly high. This is followed In the book of Acts by Luke’s account a massive conversion, if you will, of thousands of the citizens in Jerusalem. The passage starts by telling us in verse 42: “That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.”
The key phrase here has to be, “They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers,” because it is at this point that Luke describes the strangest thing, telling us that “ All the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.” Do you remember the closing scene from the movie It’s a Wonderful life” as all the townspeople showed up to give George Bailey whatever money that they could scrape together to keep Bedford Falls Savings and loan from going into default? It was a moment of pure joy. Well, this moment that Luke describes to us seems surprisingly similar. But. The scene in Jerusalem Is light years beyond Bedford Falls .It just goes to show you what the apostles, empowered by the Holy Spirit, were capable of. But having said that. I don’t believe that the enormous role the apostles played in advancing the ministry of Christ is the theme here today.
Next. Our selection from 1 Peter describing how Jesus lived Is relevant to the day, but I’m having a hard time wrapping it up in a bow and declaring this text to be our theme of the day. It was in our reading from the gospel of John, however, when the light bulbs lit up.
You know, throughout the period of lent And the days leading up to Easter Sunday followed by this period of Easter tide, we have heard the stories once again of the what and the how of Christ’s ministry on this earth. What struck me In the long series of metaphors that Jesus told to his disciples about the sheep and the sheep gate is that He was trying to convince them, end us, of the why. ‘Why am I here? Why did God, in all his wisdom, decided it would be a good idea to come to live Among his people in the flesh? Why? He answers the question in verse 10 saying: “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” I came so that you can have real and eternal life, more and better life than you’ve ever dreamed of.’ Could it really be that simple? The people of Jerusalem that day long ago would think so. And this far as I can tell, this promise still stands; that is, as long as we don’t let our dogma get in the way.
I don’t know if you all are aware, but the United Methodist Church in Grand Ronde has voted to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. I don’t know what the next steps will be. Will they have to purchase the property? Will they affiliate with the alternative Global Methodist Church or simply strike out on their own as a non denominational community church. I just don’t know.
At the same time, I have to wonder why it was that the majority of the congregation made this decision.
I’m certain that the church’s position on homosexuality played a big part, certainly, that is still a hot button issue in our denomination, but I have to believe there was more to it than that. I have to believe then when Jesus told us why he came saying, “ I came so that you can have real and eternal life, more and better life than you’ve ever dreamed of;” I have to believe That so many who have heard these words- who have heard this promise- Have a real difficult time processing the idea.
I read an article recently by a man named Rob Renfroe who is the president of the Methodist newsletter. Good News. Now, I usually don’t spend much time reading Mr. Renfroe’s writings. He is a bit too conservative for my tastes, but this time it grabbed my imagination, Especially since it seemed to speak to our theme and of the understanding of why. The gist of the article rested in Mr. Renfroe’s response to an article by a united Methodists seminary professor who made the statement that the death of Jesus does not save us. You can just about imagine the flurry of theological pontification that is going to follow a statement like that. I won’t go into great detail or we could be here all day, but suffice it to say that within our own denomination, there are vast differences in the understanding of what it means that Christ willingly suffered a gruesome death at the hands of those he loved. And then he forgave them- he forgives us- As only our creator can do.
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. The sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice.
We might get to feeling that we don’t need to be watched over. We are tough, independent, self-sustaining even. Besides, this shepherd and sheep analogy is old news.
But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, still calls to us and when he does it is a familiar voice, a comforting voice, a voice that can lead us to real and eternal life, more and better life than we ever dreamed.
I’d like to close with the reading of the 23rd Psalm, but instead of the King James Version which we all know well, this is from the Good News translation.
he Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
3 He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths,
as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness,
I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me. You prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honored guest and fill my cup to the brim.
6 I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;
and your house will be my home as long as I live.
So why did Jesus come? For the love of us that’s why. It’s hard to believe sometime. But Jesus came for the love of us.
Amen and Shalom