Acts: Movement: From Fear to Faith

Sermon Series: Acts: The Disruptive Presence of the Holy Spirit

By: Donnell Wyche – June 9, 2019

Preamble

We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. We’re grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring with you into this space. Together we’ve been welcomed into God’s family through Jesus. As we become the people of God, we choose to reflect God’s love in our gratitude, in our joy, & in our generosity as we navigate the complexity of our daily lives. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you’ve been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision. If you are looking for a church home, we would love to be your church home, and I, in particular would love to become your pastor.

The Book of Acts invites us on a journey to explore how we might have faith in the Empire. Acts asks whether we are open to the disruptive presence of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. How are we living as witnesses of the resurrection because the resurrection invites a reordering.

As the early disciples and apostles welcome the disruptive presence of the Holy Spirit in their daily lives, something transformative happens. Those who had been with Jesus move from being observers of the work of the Holy Spirit and the in-breaking of the kingdom, to partners. Throughout Acts we have story after story of the apostles moving from fear to faith. As they partner with the Holy Spirit and bear witness to the resurrection, they move from mere observers to active participants in the unfolding kingdom of God.

Opening with the story of Peter and John who are heading up to the temple for the midday prayers. This is a rather normal routine because in the world they inhabited the practices of prayer was woven into their everyday. They were practicing what we would call fixed-hour prayers. There are usually three offices: the morning, midday, and evening prayer office.

Sidebar: If you want to improve your prayer life and engagement, you might try the Divine Hours, which are hosted on our website at <http://annarborvineyard.org/tdh/>. If you would like to meet with someone to help you get started with prayer.

Peter and John have a kingdom encounter in their daily routines of prayer. They engage someone they had likely seen on a regular basis, but the resurrection and their witness to it has changed everything. Let’s consider Acts 3:3,

3When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Peter and John at the temple gate has an echo of what Jesus does with Bartimaeus, who was begging on the road. Jesus stops and engages Bartimaeus. Jesus treats Bartimaeus with mercy. So Peter does the same.

“Look at me!”

Peter is putting into practice all that he had learned by listening to, watching Jesus as he invited the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. Peter now knows that the resurrection changes everything. Peter is aware that the world isn’t just what you can see, hear, and touch, maybe there really is a kingdom that’s breaking into this ordinary world.

6Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:1-10)

Moving from Fear to Faith Takes Movement

We often focus on the healing as the miracle, but I want to draw your attention to the movement instead. When someone is healed consider that everything surrounding and leading up to the healing is ordinary. When someone prays for healing, it’s just two ordinary people, doing what the people of God have done since the beginning, talking to God. The miracle of the healing happens when God shows up. We just have to first believe that the kingdom and the King are present. This places us in a posture of openness, allowing the Holy Spirit to disrupt our everyday with the power, presence, and mercy of the in-breaking Kingdom. The Hoy Spirit might nudge you, might prompt you to pause and pay attention, or the Spirit might speak directly to you.

That’s what we witness here in Acts, and Luke has a pattern to showcase how the Holy Spirit shows up: Event, Reaction, Explanation, Response, and Sequel. After the healing event, Peter takes inventory of their reactions.

11While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12When Peter saw this, he said to them: “People of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? (Acts 3:11-12)

A friend of mine puts this way — we are called to respond to God, but in order to respond, we have to be open to the reality that God is at work, that God’s Kingdom is near. In Peter’s story in Acts 3, I think that’s what you see. Peter sees the needs, but also sees the Kingdom, instead of responding just to the needs of the man, Peter responds to God.

As Peter responds to God, he knows through his experiences that there’s healing available in the Kingdom, so he moves. He sees the man in need, and he offers him what he has, faith in a kingdom that’s in-breaking.

Peter continues with his explanation:

13The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. (Acts 3:13-16)

As Peter gives his explanation for what they have just witnessed, we should be mindful that Peter is familiar with scripture. He understood who Jesus was and what Jesus accomplished in light of the scriptures he read, including the prophets (like Joel) that Peter quotes in Acts 2. So, when gives his account, he’s not just making it up on the spot, he’s anchoring this healing and the in-breaking of the kingdom within an existing story, a story with a redemptive arc, including his own story of redemption with Jesus.  How would we tell the story of Jesus to those who see our acts of kindness, justice and mercy and healing?

Peter concludes with his response and call to action,

17“Now, brothers and sisters, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. (Acts 3:17-20)

I love Simon Peter not because of where he ends up, but because of how he gets there. Over his journey with Jesus, Simon Peter moves from Fear to Faith. I love the story of ups and downs that Simon Peter has on his journey of following Jesus. From walking on water to sinking in that very same water. Often, we are told where we should be (like Peter here in this story before religious leaders) without ever being told how to get there or even better, how to get started.

When we first encounter Simon Peter in scripture, it’s right as he is called to leave home and enter the kingdom of God. Jesus meets him as he was–casting out his nets. Peter wasn’t a rabbinical student, and he had no idea that following Jesus would place him at the center of a worldwide renewal movement. Peter was just at work doing his job when he received an invitation to follow Jesus into the unknown.

What Jesus sees in Peter, he sees in all of us. Peter needed to be told, “Don’t be afraid.” Put another way, it’s Jesus saying, “I see you. I believe in you. I know you. I love you.” Lean into me with trust and surrender.

Peter reminds us that we are all in motion, some of us are close to Jesus and can help serve as guides to those of us just starting. Some of us aren’t ready to make Jesus our center, but many of us are desperate for the in-breaking of the kingdom and all the kingdom has to offer.

Peter rightly anchors this healing in its proper context, the resurrection, and God’s plan from the beginning, inviting those of us who marvel at God and God’s activity in the world to do what he had to do, “Repent, and turn to God.”

We Are His Witnesses

Jesus’ goal for us is to become his witnesses.

7He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

One of Jesus’ qualities was his empathy. Crowds followed him everywhere he went, and he had compassion for them. He responded with miraculous healing of those who were sick, he drove out demons, and he even raised people from the dead. He cared for the poor, outcast, and marginalized, and he fed the hungry.

Almost all of us have a story of the in-breaking of the kingdom. When we share these stories and create space for others to share theirs, we change the ordinary world — a prayer request that was answered, a healing, a revelation. This simple act of creating space for ourselves and others unlocks so much in the lives of those around us. It communicates worth, value, and power in our lives and those around us.

Risky Response –  Take a moment of silence. – Then ask the Holy Spirit:

How are we placing ourselves, our church, our community in God’s story? How are we explaining why Jesus and the resurrection matters? How are we joining Jesus in his work of making us his witnesses?

We can become witnesses as we perform acts of compassion, comfort, and service. We  become witnesses when we pray for people. We become witnesses when we comfort and sit in pain with the grieving and hurting. We become witnesses when we feed the hungry and cloth the naked. We become witnesses when we announce that the in-breaking kingdom is releasing forgiveness, mercy, grace, and healing.

Prayer Senses 

  • Healing in the family unit.
  • Mending – The Lord wants to mend rifts in people’s families and restore what has been lost. 
  • Grace for those dealing with anxiety and depression. The Lord is with you. 
  • Persevere. The Lord is your source of hope.”
  • Gratitude is the way out of the desert.
  • Wisdom with finances. 
  • Courage for those dealing with loss.