We're so glad you've decided to join us today!
We are meeting in person again! While we meet, we share our joys and concerns from the past week with each other. If you have any prayer requests you would like to share, you can add them in the comments. Our Sunday School lessons for this quarter are all about celebrating God. Our prayer today is a prayer of praise thanksgiving. When you are ready, use the prayer below to get started.
Father, I thank You today for the gift of praise. Thank you for revealing Yourself to me through Your Word, by Your Spirit, and in Your creation, that I might stand in awe of You. You alone are worthy of praise and glory and honor, for You have created all things, that in all things You might be preeminent. For every request that I offer, every supplication that I raise, and every intercession I make, let me never neglect to render the praise You are due. In the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
This week's lesson is on Acts 2:32-33, 37-47.
The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were both written by Luke, a Gentile disciple and physician (Colossians 4:14). The Gospel is like a Part 1, while Acts is Part 2. Both of Luke's books are written to a person called Theophilus. The contents of the book of Acts span about 30 years, beginning in AD 30. The time frame of our lesson is 50 days after Jesus' resurrection.
The apostle Peter is the speaker in today's text. Our book says there is a good chance that many or most of the audience listening to Peter speak had also been in Jerusalem during Jesus' trials, crucifixion and resurrection. Those making the annual pilgrimage for observances of Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread would stay for the Festival of Weeks.
For Jewish people, the Festival of Unleavened Bread is an eight day long holiday, the first day of which is Passover. The Festival of Weeks, Shavuot, takes places fifty days after the first day of the Passover festival. This is the same day that our story takes place, and the same day that we celebrate Pentecost.
At first glance, we may be surprised that Peter exhibited the boldness we see in today's text. He had denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion (Luke 22:54-62) and had cowered afterward in a locked room (John 20:19). But having been reinstated by Jesus himself after the resurrection (John 21:15-19), Peter became a different man.
The Jewish people were expecting their Messiah to be a king like David (Matthew 12:23), not this Jesus. They were expecting a political savior to rescue them from the Romans. Instead, they got Jesus, who was a humble servant with no palace.
While the people did not recognize Jesus, it was all in God's plan from the very beginning. This included God promising to strike the servant in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), promising Abraham his progeny would be a blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:1-3), and raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:23-35).
Our book points out that verse 33 refers to two different scriptures. One is the beginning of Acts 2, with the wind, fire and speaking in tongues, what the people "see and hear now." The second is Joel 2. Part of the prophecy is quite familiar. Verses 28 and 29 read:
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days."
Peter sees the events of that day as fulfilling Joel's prophecy. In fact, part of Acts 2 is the first public announcement of the significance of Jesus' death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. The Scriptures had predicted that all this would happen to the Messiah (examples: Psalms 2, 16, 22; Isaiah 53; Luke 24:25-27).
Peter's words brought many people to the painful realization that God sent Jesus out of love for them, but they had rejected him. Even though they had not personally driven the nails into his hands and feet, they had either agreed with those who did, or they had approved of the crucifixion by their silence.
When the people ask what they should do, Peter tells them to repent and be baptized. This means they should turn away from sin and toward God in heart, mind and lifestyle. Their entire lives should change.
The scripture then says about 3,000 people were baptized. Modern estimates suggest that Jerusalem's population was about 60,000 - 80,000 people at that time. With the annual observance of the Festival of Weeks, the number would have been temporarily much higher. The 3,000 people were really just a small fraction of the people were there. But many of them may have been visitors to Jerusalem. This means that as they left, they could take their accounts of what had happened back to their hometowns.
The people who were baptized that day were also devoted. They really did change their lives. They spent time in fellowship, pooling their time, talent and treasure into the gospel task. This is more than just gathering together. They shared meals. They prayed.
The text also says the earliest Christians had everything in common. They shared their possessions. They sold property to be able to give to those in need. Christians are still called to give to those in need.
These people found strength in getting together every day. Larger groups could meet in the temple courts, while smaller gatherings could meet in their homes. Public meetings in the temple meant that the earliest Christians were not huddling together in secret. Instead, their public witness gained them favor of all the people. Having a good reputation with outsiders is important for attracting them to Jesus.
In our modern society, Christians can allow themselves to become too busy to engage in the kind of fellowship described in this passage. We may get home after work, shut the garage door, and "cocoon" for the rest of the evening. What a tragedy to miss out on opportunities that can bind the church together!
Question for Discussion
Verse 42 says the early Christians devoted themselves to four things:
The most powerful realization from today's text is that Christ is still good news for a dying world -- he has been since the day of Pentecost, and he will continue to be so until he returns. Until then, we must share Jesus with everyone we can.
Foundational to this effort is a sense of awe, which is often missing in the church today. Sometimes our worship services feel stale. Our prayer lives may dry up. We allow the urgent to distract us from the important. But in those times, we can ask for transformation as we cry for God to "restore to me the joy of your salvation," (Psalm 51:12).
God still works in and through his people. May we be aware of his movement in our lives, our churches, and our communities so that we too may see the church growing daily.
Lord, thank you for being the God of transformation! As you have been merciful, patient, and forgiving to us in that regard, may we be so to others who need to hear of your son. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Next week's lesson is on Psalm 100.
We're so glad that you've joined us today!
Lois did our lesson this week, and requested that we listen to this hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul."
Horatio G. Spafford wrote the text to this hymn. His son only son died of pneumonia. He then lost everything in the Chicago fire of 1871. He planned to travel with his wife and four daughters back to England. However, Spafford was detained with business at the last minute, and his family traveled without him. The ship they were on sank, killing all four of his daughters. When his wife reached Cardiff, Wales, Mrs. Spafford sent a telegram to her husband: "Saved Alone."
Spafford immediately went to join her. The words were said to be written as he approached the area of the ocean where the ship carrying his daughters sank.
When we met together in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to think about the last week. Who might you pray for? What prayer requests do you have? If you have any that you would like to share, you can add them as a comment below. When you are ready, pray the prayer below, including any prayer requests we may have.
We're so happy you've joined us!
Today is the first Sunday in Lent.
When we meet together in person, we share our joys and concerns with each other before we focus on our Sunday school lesson. Think about your needs and concerns right now, and if you like, you can share them in the comments. This is a time when our church is beginning to think about searching for a new pastor. It is a challenging and exciting time, but as we pray about finding the right pastor for the future, we should remember that we are all coworkers with Christ and with each other in sharing the gospel right now.
The prayer below may serve to guide us in our opening prayer. It is from the Vanderbilt University website.
We're so glad you've joined us today!
When we met in person, we shared our joys and concerns together. Take some time to think on the past week. What were you thankful for? What brought you joy? What is worrying you? If you would like, you can share any of these things in the comments below, and we can all pray for them. When you are ready, you can pray the prayer below (from here), and include your own prayers as well.
We're glad you decided to join us virtually this morning!
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take time to think about the people you know who need help and comfort right now. You can share these in the comments if you would like. The prayer below is from lectionary resource website of Vanderbilt University.
As you pray, you may offer your own specific joys and concerns in the silent space provided.
Holy God, you have called us to follow in the way of your risen Son, and to care for those who are our companions, not only with words of comfort, but with acts of love. Seeking to be true friends of all, we offer our prayers on behalf of the church and the world.
(Silent space for personal joys and concerns)
Guide us in the path of discipleship, so that, as you have blessed us, we may be a blessing for others, bringing the promise of the kingdom near by our words and deeds. Amen.
This week, we are trying something a little different. The normal bulletin contents are below this week's video. We hope that this helps you to feel a little more like being together.
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.