“The First Christian Sermon” [a sermon, ironically]


Well, I’m finally coming off a whirlwind month of preaching three out of four weeks while our lead pastor is on vacation…and while I keep doing my full-time day job. So now, hopefully I’ll be able to post more here again. I do want to share with you these sermons though.

This summer, my church is going through different key texts in the book of Acts, chronicling the opening years of the Christian movement in the world. In the first of these sermons I’ve done during the past month, I got to preach on the Christian holiday of Trinity Sunday and my text was the very first Christian sermon ever preached–Peter’s Pentecost message. I tried to weave these together best I could.

The text is Acts 2.22-39, and here’s the sermon audio. Feel free to send me any thoughts, questions or concerns:

You can also download it here, or subscribe to our podcast. If reading is more your style, here are my notes for your perusal. Continue reading

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#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #6 [Catch-Up]


After a long break, we’re back with this part of the site. Here’s a little catch up list of where we’ve been since we last posted about this.

Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I’m still trying to figure out the best pace at which to post these, so be patient with me. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Job

Job, God, & Satan (Can I get some help from the scholar’s out there?)| Job 1.6-7
God, Social Justice, & Social Welfare | Job 5.15-16
Fragments from a speech by Job| Selections of Job 6 & 7
Job’s Friends are Right! Job’s Friends are Wrong.| Job 8.5-7,20-22
In a sense, God CAN’T favor the righteous| Job 9.1-4

Continue reading

The Trinity building the Church! | Acts 20.28


Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.

Acts 20.28

Wow, here’s the whole Trinity at work in leading God’s church! Would that we give more attention to this Trinitarian nature to the sustaining of our churches. Also, notice how Jesus’ blood “obtained” the Church. He didn’t merely create the space of possibility. He went out and got it. It is is his.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

When your church’s “cultural relevance” fails | Acts 14.11-18


When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice.

 

When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.”

 

Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

Acts 14.11-18

This is in contrast to Paul’s later methods at Mars Hill in Chapter 17. Here we see that not every “contextualization” is created equal. Sometimes, your “relevance” could be dragging people to worship yourself or false idols. As preachers, we should always be on the lookout for this, and to constantly speak against it.

On another note, that bold part (v.15) should be the model for every single sermon.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

My Gospel Terror, Acts, & Letters [photo sermon]


Acts-bible-lomo

Each week, WordPress has a Weekly Photo Challenge, where they give a theme and invite people to highlight photography representing that theme, accompanied by a few meditations on it. OccasionallyI try and write a “photo sermon” or meditation based on those themes, accompanied by a photo of mine . This week’s theme is “Letters“.

* * * * *

I grew up in church and grew up loving the Bible. I did devotionals and sat in Sunday School classes for the vast majority of my life. And yet, it wasn’t until I got to my junior year of college and took a class on the Gospels that I read any of the Gospels all the way through. Sure, I had probably heard most of the Gospels preached on or excerpted in devotionals and books, but I had never read a Gospel from beginning to end.

At the time, I thought it was because they seemed too holy. It felt like too much for my young soul to handle to read the very words of Jesus on my own. It was too weighty for me and scared me. Maybe I just wanted to wait until I could drink whiskey or wine while reading them.
Continue reading

Confirm everything, even the Holy Spirit | Acts 13.2-3


While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 13.2-3

I love this. Because they were so in tune with God and his Spirit, even after the Holy Spirit tells them something, they still feel they need to fast and pray before doing it. Those early Christians weren’t just willy-nilly following whatever spiritual whim and inspiration they got. They were careful and made sure they were hearing God rightly. May we do the same.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Responding to Prophets: The Holy Spirit Changes Everything | Acts 11:27-30


At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Acts 11:27-30

Sounds pretty Old Testament to me. But notice how the people of God respond. In the OT, when prophets spoke all of this, the people either barely responded, or responded in overdramatic wailing and (temporary) repenting. This group of God’s people, however, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, proceed to act in light of the prophecy to seek human flourishing and societal good. This is the response that the prophets of old were looking for and never got.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Our Exile is for the world’s salvation | Acts 7.6-7


And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years.‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’

Acts 7.6-7

Our exile/ambassadorship/pilgrim-nature as well as God’s judgment are all for the sake of the ultimate worshipnot condemnation–of the nations and the world!

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

We worship Christ and…. the Resurrection? | Acts 17 & 24


Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.” (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.)

Acts 17:18

One of the funniest moments in Acts. Notice they accuse him of preaching foreign “divinities” (plural). The Greek word for Resurrection is Anastasis. Paul has rolled in preaching “ton Iesous kai thn Anastasin”, or “the Jesus and the Resurrection”. The Philosophers think that Paul is preaching about two gods: “Jesus” and his wife, “Resurrection”.

I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people.

Acts 24:15-16

Paul is obsessed with the resurrection. Well technically, Luke is. If you see the charge against Paul earlier, it was that he was preaching Christ and the Resurrection. They thought he was teaching two gods. Apparently, he must have been talking about the Resurrection so passionately. Almost as passionately as Christ.

They did not accuse him of preaching Jesus and the Cross, Jesus and the Tomb, Jesus and the Jews, Jesus and Grace through Faith, or even Jesus and the New Creation! It was Jesus and the Resurrection. The Resurrection is Paul’s way out of trouble. It’s his way of telling his story. Of causing divisions between himself and some Jews, and to show his solidarity with others. It’s everything to who Paul is and what he’s come to do.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Phillip the Baptizing Magician?| Acts 8.39-40


When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Acts 8.39-40

What the heck? This happens and the eunuch just goes on his merry way? This is unlike most things in the book of Acts.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Storied Propaganda of Acts | Acts 6.7,15


The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 6.7

That’s odd phrasing. This is telling a certain version of history. Surely this fact would be denied by the Jews at the time. And yet, Luke is trying to paint a picture of the Gospel spreading, to the Jews first (in this section, the focus is on Jerusalem and Peter) and then to the ends of the earth (the big Paul section).

And all who sat in the council looked intently at him [Stephen], and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
–Acts 6:15

Here we see one of the inklings and beginning of the long Christian tradition of saint veneration and myth-making (St. George and the Dragon, anyone?)

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

St. Stephen & the History of Israel | Acts 7.48-53


Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says,

‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
Did not my hand make all these things?’

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”
Acts 7.48-53

Notice how Stephen does a few things here in this turn.

  1. He skips the history of Israel that includes the Divided Monarchy, Exile, Return, Intertestamental Victories and and Sorrows, and the establishment of the Jewish state under Roman Rule.
  2. He jumps straight from the temple to their Rejection of Jesus. This could be Jesus’ connection as a New Temple among us, it could highlight Israel’s inordinate obsession with the temple, even unto the rejection of their Messiah, or it could be a reference to the charges they brought against Jesus to get him crucified: blasphemy against the temple.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

In Acts, Paul = Jesus | Acts 27.35-36


After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves.
Acts 27.35-36

Here is an obvious parallel between Jesus and Paul. I don’t know if these features are meant to hearken to the feeding of the 5,000, or the Last Supper. Actually, it’s probably not a parallel of the 5,000, because there is no multiplication or anything miraculous about this meal. But, Paul does the same thing with the bread that Jesus does elsewhere, and others are similarly encouraged by what he does. If I had to vote, I would say that this is a parallel of the Last Supper. Or, it is like the road to Emmaus passage, where Jesus is seen in the breaking of the bread.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Luke on the New Perspective on Paul | Acts 15:1,8-11


Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”…
Acts 28.23-31

This is a great summary of the argument for the New Perspective on Paul. The key is the line about Moses. It’s not about works righteousness, but ethnic identity.

And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Acts 15:8-11

Another quick NPP note. Notice here that Peter is not contrasting salvation by yoke versus salvation by grace, but that grace will also save them just as the Jews believed it saved them.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Paul is slow; Acts has gaps| Acts 28.1-11


After we had reached safety, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us around it…. Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days…. They bestowed many honors on us, and when we were about to sail, they put on board all the provisions we needed.

Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead.
Acts 28.1-2,7,10-11

Three months!? That’s a long time! Good lord, what were they doing?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.