APC 2nd May 2021 ‘The Beginning of the church’
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Sunday morning worship. If you’ve ever wondered how the church began, this morning’s service will help you to find out, as today we reflect on the amazing story of the Day of Pentecost.
But to begin, let’s worship God together as we listen to the beautiful song “The Ancient of Days”
(End Part 1)
Opening Song “The Ancient of Days”
It’s fantastic to know that God has been around forever and He is the one who never changes- the great and wise rock in whom we can put our trust. Let’s pray…
Almighty and loving God, we gather together today as those joined by your Holy Spirit. We come remembering your ancient promise to send your spirit upon all people, young and old, male and female, Jew and Gentile.
Move within us we pray
We come remembering that first Pentecost when your spirit was given to the apostles, renewing their faith and transforming their lives.
Move within us we pray
We come today, reminded of the constant work or your spirit – inspiring, guiding, challenging, refining.
Move within us we pray
Almighty God, Spirit of truth, come as you promised and reveal to us more of the way of Christ. Come and fill us with deeper faith and greater love. Give us the gifts that we need to work for your Kingdom. Inspire us with new vision and purpose and breathe your power into our lives.
Move within us we pray
Almighty and loving God, open our hearts and minds and souls to your spirit, whoever we may be, and so equip us to live as your people not just this day but every day of our lives reflecting your glory and proclaiming your love.
Move within us we pray to the glory of your name, Amen.
Join with me now as we say the Lord’s Prayer thoughtfully and sincerely together…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Introduction to Kids Video
We come now to the part of our service that’s especially for the younger members of our church family. So if your kids aren’t beside you right now, why not pause the recording, and call them in to watch a short video with young people explaining how God sent His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And at the end of this video I’ve a few words to say to the children so don’t let them rush away.
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Kid’s Video Cossroads Kids Club “Pentecost”
Kid’s Talk Summary
Hey boys and girls, I hope you enjoyed the video today. What I loved about today’s video is that the story was all told by young people. People like you. People who believe in Jesus. People who have God the Holy Spirit living inside them to help them every day. You know, you are never too young to believe that Jesus died for you and to want to live for God. You can ask the Jesus to give you His Holy Spirit and He will. It’s fantastic to have the Holy Spirit living inside you because He can help you with all sorts of things and He can comfort you when you are sad. He can also warn you about things that might not be good for you. I hope you do believe Jesus died for you. I hope you have asked Jesus to give you His Spirit. And I hope that every day you talk to God and tell Him all about your life. He loves you and wants to be your best friend.
You know I’ve got some really good news! In just a couple of weeks, our church is allowed to be open again! So I really hope you and your family can be there. I’m really excited to see you all again.
Don’t forget to ask your mum or dad to download the colouring sheet from our Facebook page to help you remember today’s lesson. I hope you have a great week in school but bye for now!
Reflection “The Beginning of the Early Church”
Last week we left the disciples feeling abandoned and confused for a second time when Jesus suddenly and mysteriously floated up to heaven before their very eyes. What would they do now that their Lord was no longer with them? They had no definite answer to that question. All they had to go on were two significant statements Jesus made shortly before making his surprise departure. The first was one thrown into the conversation over dinner. We find it in Acts Chapter 1 v 4. There we read that Jesus turns to his friends and says,
“Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. John baptised you with water but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.”
Given the fact that they were devastated by his death and surprised by His resurrection, my guess is that the disciples didn’t completely understand everything Jesus was saying. But the instruction to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the next part of the adventure was pretty clear. So that’s what they did.
The reason Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem is because He wanted to give them a very special gift in a way that would energise and enable them to kick start the beginning of the Christian church. This gift was the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ Himself. This historical event marks one of the most significant moments in the whole of history because up until this point, the Holy Spirit was only given to people for short periods of time to enable them to minister powerfully in God’s name.
But here in Acts, we discover that a short time after Jesus returned to heaven, God gives His Holy Spirit as a gift to remain with people forever. It is this gift and the work of the Holy Spirit that forms one of the major themes in the book of Acts.
The second statement made by Jesus that Luke vividly remembers is on another occasion when Jesus was with his disciples after His resurrection.
They asked him, “Lord, are you going to restore the Kingdom of Israel now?”
He replies, “It is not for you to know the times or dates set by God the Father, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
This is another really significant statement because it highlights for us one of the other main themes in the Book of Acts – God’s Mission. You see, the book of Acts is actually an historical record of the early Christian’s Spirit-directed efforts to obey the command of Jesus to take the good news about His death and resurrection to the whole world. First to the Jewish nation, then to the Samaritans who were a people group with Jewish and non-Jewish religious influence and finally to people in the world with no Jewish religious background whatsoever– the Gentiles as they are described in scripture.
As we pick up the story, having watched Jesus disappear into the clouds, the 11 disciples return to their hideout in Jerusalem and arrange a meeting between themselves and around 110 other followers. This meeting was a bit like a church AGM. The main item on the agenda was the election of a 12th apostle to replace Judas who sadly had not only betrayed his Lord, but committed suicide afterwards.
Since it was the Lord’s job to appoint apostles, the method the 11 disciples used was the prayerful drawing of lots. Effectively this meant that the two men who had been following Jesus the longest and had witnessed his resurrection were invited to choose one of two sticks. Matthias chose the longer stick so this was taken as a sign from God that he was to be the twelfth apostle. It seems a strangely undemocratic method of choosing leadership to us in the 21st Century, but it does demonstrate a very strong belief in the power of prayer and in the belief that God hears and answers prayer very directly and according to His will.
Interestingly the Moravian Church has practiced this same method for making decisions in their church for many years. It is not as used so frequently today but it is still used to choose the scripture texts for their annually Produced Daily Devotional Book called, “The Word for Today.” Perhaps we have much to learn by this deep expression of faith in both the early church and in our Moravian brothers and sisters.
Now that Matthias had been added to the 11 other apostles, the apostolic team was deemed to be complete, mirroring the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel that we read about in the Old Testament. They were now ready to go out into the world and preach the good news about Jesus, except for one last thing – they still hadn’t yet been baptised with the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet come to live in them forever.
All of which brings us to the short passage that I want to focus on for this morning. It is Luke’s account of the Day when Jesus fulfilled his promise and gave the gift of His Holy Spirit to each of the early Christian believers gathered in Jerusalem. Let’s listen to that passage now as read for us by Emily Kearon…
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BIBLE READING Acts 2 v 1-13 Emily Kearon
All of these early followers of Jesus including the 12 apostles were from a Jewish background. Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem. It would have been natural for them to be gathered in Jerusalem anyway. That’s because it was the ‘Day of Pentecost’. Pentecost was one of the 3 major festivals in the Jewish Calendar Year - Passover, Pentecost and The Feast of Tabernacles. It was held 50 days or 7 weeks after the Feast of Passover which is why it is also known as the “Feast of Weeks.” Passover occurred in April so the Day of Pentecost would have been in early June. It was a public holiday and a Jewish religious celebration similar to our modern day celebration of Harvest. For on the Day of Pentecost crowds of Jewish pilgrims from all over the world would gather in Jerusalem to thank God for the crops of harvest. It was also the day when Jewish people commemorated the moment in history when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. But this particular day would be no ordinary Pentecost. This one would go down in the history of the Christian church as one of the most significant moments of all time. For this was the moment when God chose to give His Holy Spirit to be with His church forever. It was the moment when God would unfold yet another stage of His rescue plan to tell people from all over the world about Jesus. It happened like this-
The group of 120 Jesus’ believers were together, in a meeting room when the Holy Spirit unexpectedly descended. Suddenly they heard the howling of a violent wind which filled the entire house where they were staying. Flames of fire appeared, separated out and rested on each one of them like little flickering tongues. They sensed themselves being filled with God’s Spirit, whatever that means. Then they all started speaking in lots of foreign languages!
By any stretch of the imagination these were not normal events. This was a supernatural occurrence that cannot be explained scientifically nor should we try to do so. Whether these believers excitedly moved out into the streets or the temple courts when this phenomena happened or whether people in the busy streets outside heard this commotion through an open door or window we can’t be sure. All we know is that this crowd of spirit filled Christians were surrounded by a crowd of Jewish pilgrims from many different regions. What amazed the crowd was that each of them heard one or two of these Christians speaking about God in their own native language. How could that be since all these people were originally from Galilee in Israel and would never have had the opportunity to learn Turkish, Spanish, Egyptian or Italian?
The crowd turned to each other and said, “This is weird! What do you think it means?”
Some of the crowd laughed and shouted, “Ah, they’ve just had too many glasses of red wine!”
There are many lessons we can learn from this passage of scripture. One is simply that God is God. Nothing, and that means nothing, is impossible for Him. While he normally works by the laws of nature He is not bound by them. Miracles are easy for God. He is God after all! I wonder have we forgotten that? Have we closed our hearts and minds to the possibility of the impossible? In what area of your life do you need a miracle? Have you asked God for one?
Another lesson is that when God does something, we don’t always easily understand initially what is happening or what is going on. What we experience may be easier ‘felt than telt’. Neither these early Christians, nor the crowd who heard them probably realised exactly what was happening. They just knew it was happening…
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable in your relationship with God. You may not fully understand what God is doing in your life, but in the days and weeks and months ahead that will become clear. Hindsight is a wonderful teacher. But for now, trust Him.
A third thought is that this was a very exceptional event. God deliberately chose one of the busiest days of the year, in order to get a very significant message to as many Jewish people as He could, at one time. It was His hope that having grabbed these people’s attention by this miraculous event, they would stop long enough to hear the message of Christ and take that message back to their own countries and Jewish friends and families.
I wonder, how we can be more creative in order to get people’s attention so that we will get an opportunity to tell them about Christ? Or maybe that’s a wrong question. Maybe I should be asking, how much more do we need to pray that God will show up in amazing ways in order that people may be attracted to listen to the good news? Or because this was such a unique event, maybe we should be asking, “Should we always be expecting God to do the miraculous or to turn up in spine-tingling and dramatic ways?”
If you remember back to the story of Elijah in the Old Testament he needed a message from God. He too was probably expecting something dramatic. There was a great wind, an earthquake and finally a fire. But God wasn’t in any of these things. God’s message came in a gentle whisper. God may use dramatic events to work in your life, but more often He may just speak in the ordinary and in the quiet whisper. Do you ever miss what God is trying to say to you because you’re always looking for the spectacular?
To what degree these early Christians or the crowd understood the significance of this event I’m not sure. But with the benefit of hindsight and thousands of years of Christian reflection there are a few other important lessons that we can learn from this event-
One is that the word for ‘wind’ used here, is the same as that used for the ‘Spirit’. This was God’s Holy Spirit coming upon His people. The Spirit’s life-giving power is portrayed as filling the lungs with the breath of life. Here the churches’ spiritual lungs were filled to declare the mighty deeds of God. The way the sound of the Spirit filled the room they were in and filled their bodies is similar to the way the glory of God filled the temple and the tabernacle or ‘tent of meeting’ that we read about in the Old Testament. The spirit was consecrating a new sanctuary in which God would dwell among His people. In other words this was the moment when God sent His Holy Spirit to live in believers forever! This is further evidenced by the tongues of fire which rested above each of these Christians. Surely they would have understood this to symbolise what it symbolised in the Old Testament – God’s presence – a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night resting over the centre of the Israelite camp. But here it divided and rested on every single one of these believers. Surely this was a sign from God that now His presence would be with every believer through His Holy Spirit who would come to live in them and remain with them wherever they were in the world.
All of this is hugely significant for you and me. Before the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit only ever came upon people for a short period of time to help them in certain circumstances. But now that Jesus has ascended and His Holy Spirit has come to the earth to take up His ministry, it means that anyone who is willing to turn away from what they know to be wrong and who cries out to God for forgiveness trusting that Jesus Christ died on the cross to take the judgement they deserve will not only receive forgiveness but they will also receive or be baptised in the Holy Spirit. And once they have received the Holy Spirit they will never lose Him. So if you are a Christian you have the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of Christ. He is a person not an impersonal force or ‘it’. His main role is to join you to Christ Jesus so that Christ’s very presence may be with you always wherever you go. If you are a Christian the Holy Spirit already lives within you. You don’t need to be baptised in the Spirit again. Rather you need to be careful that you don’t grieve Him. You need to keep short accounts with God, confessing your sins regularly. And praying that God will continue to fill you with His Spirit. That means that the Holy Spirit who is already living in you will be given freedom in your life to minister to you and allow His character to flood and be expressed in your life.
I have no doubt that Christians from different traditions will describe their experience of the Holy Spirit in different ways. I think what we can all agree on, is that when you repent and believe you receive and are sealed with Gods Spirit. He will never leave you. You don’t need to receive Him again! But you must continue to allow Him to fill your life with His presence and character through prayer, obedience and regular continued confession and repentance. You should ask Him to grant you spiritual gifts for the benefit of others and to show you the gifts that he has given you. However that feels or whatever words you use to describe these experiences doesn’t really matter. What matters, as Paul puts it, is that, “You are a temple of the Holy Spirit!”
There are two final things I want to say from this passage. When the gospel is preached or when God comes in miraculous display of power people always react in one of two ways- Some are so intrigued that they want to find out more and will eventually respond positively to God. Others will simply laugh and say, “It’s all a load of rubbish. You people are deluded!” Don’t be surprised that no matter how hard you pray or no matter how well you live, you will experience both of these reactions.
And lastly, as we think of God’s desire and miraculous attempts to share His Good News with Jews from all over the world in this passage let me ask you this question- We are surrounded by people from lots of other countries in the world here in Ireland. There are also many people in the world who have never once heard the Good News about Jesus- How do you or how may you play your part in God’s ongoing mission to share the wonders of Christ to the people of the world? If you’ve any more thoughts or ideas of how we might do that better when we eventually are allowed back to church, then please come and talk to me. But above all, let me encourage you to pray, “Lord here am I use me” or “Lord what do you want me to do?”
We thank God for His word, Amen.
Introduction to Song
You know it was an amazing day when the first disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit made all the difference in their lives and gave them courage and power to go out and share the good news about Jesus. It was almost as if the disciple’s life with Jesus began all over again. The Holy Spirit can do the same for us to. So let’s rejoice in the fact that through Jesus death, resurrection and the gift of His Spirit you and I have been set free and have been given a new and better life in Him. So join in as Seth Condry leads us in the song “Death was arrested and my life began”.
(End Part 4)
Song of Reflection “Death was arrested and my life began”
Prayer for others
Mighty God, come to us through your Holy Spirit, filling us with peace. Give us a love for all and a desire to serve, humility of mind and gentleness of soul.
Nurture your grace in our hearts
Mighty God, come to us through your Holy Spirit, setting us on fire with love for you. Fill us with a burning desire to work for your Kingdom, and cleanse us of all that is impure and unworthy in our lives.
Kindle a flame of faith in our hearts.
Mighty God, come to us through your Holy Spirit, breathing new life into our souls. Fill us with energy and enthusiasm in the service of Christ and sweep away all in our lives that keeps us from living as your people.
Instil a sense of expectation in our hearts.
Mighty God, forgive us that we so easily limit your Spirit, receiving His blessing for ourselves but failing to pass it on to others. Forgive us that we so readily quench the Spirit, resisting that which challenges and disturbs us. Forgive us that we are so often closed to the movement of your Spirit, shutting Him out by the narrowness of our vision. Come as the dove, the fire and the wind. Open our lives to the peace, the power and the inspiration you would give us.
Open our lives and touch our hearts trough Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Take a moment to pray for friends and family asking especially that God’s Spirit might work in their lives in miraculous ways.
Take a moment to remember especially the people in India and pray that God will enable them to receive all the help they need to bring this latest wave of Covid under control…
Pray for all who mourn and for all who are battling with physical and emotional sickness at this time…
All these prayers we offer in the name of Him for whom all things are possible, Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I hope you’ve felt inspired and challenged to reflect on the amazing gift God has given us in His Holy Spirit.
The exciting news is that the government has confirmed a date of 10th May for the reopening of Masses and church gatherings. Since that is a Monday we will be reopening on Sunday 16th. Again we are allowed up to 50 people. So if you would like to book a place at church on Sunday 16th May please do text Aleida as soon as possible.
I hope you can tune in again on Wednesday morning for our Pandemic praise as we reflect on another spiritual blessing that God has given us in Christ and give thanks.
Next Sunday marks the beginning of Christian Aid week. So we will be reflecting on the consequences of climate change and considering how we might play our part in helping those who are most affected. But first, let me share the benediction, after which I invite you to say the grace together…
Go out into God’s world filled with the spark of the Holy Spirit. Let love guide your actions. Listen for the Spirit of Truth. Spread the peace of Christ and remind everyone you meet that each one is a beloved child of God…
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.