Sermon Series-” Don’t Leave Before the Miracle” Sermon title-“What’s Your Source?” May 7, 2017

May 11, 2017
Acts 1:15-26
For the next several weeks we are going to be focusing our attention on the first few chapters of Acts, in preparation for Pentecost. A couple of weeks ago I preached on the need to wait on the Lord, to not be impatient and leave before your miracle. We see in Acts 1 and 2 that the followers of Jesus waited in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had told them to wait and so they did. We know that waiting can be hard, whether it’s waiting in line at the bank or waiting for a special event, waiting for money to hit your bank account, waiting isn’t what most people enjoy doing. So we usually end up doing something to distract ourselves while we wait.
Two weeks ago my husband Vandy ended up in the hospital with atrial fib, which is when the heart doesn’t beat like it’s supposed to. We waited for 2 days for his heart to respond to the medication and get back in rhythm. We found out he literally has a stubborn heart because it never did respond to the medication. But we had to distract ourselves while we were waiting. So he watched Netflix on his computer and I took my computer to get some work done. We made phone calls to family to let them know what was going on. Bethannie and Kevin had us text them pictures of all the monitors in the room and give them the names of all the medications so they could analyze everything and know what was going on. It’s nice having 2 nurses in the family. But if that had been all we did while we waited, it would not have been enough. You see, we weren’t just waiting for medicine to work, we were waiting on God to intervene. So, while we waited, we were praying and we were asking all of you to be praying as well. God is answering those prayers.
The disciples in Acts were waiting on God and they also prayed. It says in verse 14 that they constantly joined together in prayer. But that wasn’t all they did. In the passage we read this morning, it seems they also held a business meeting. We see that there were about 120 of them gathered together and Peter stood up among them and started talking about Judas who had betrayed Jesus. He said that this betrayal happened in fulfillment of scripture and that it was necessary to choose someone to take Judas’ place. Peter quotes Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. This is where he gets his guidance about what they need to do. They need to choose someone who had been with them from the beginning and who was a witness of the resurrection.
Now this is interesting because it reminds us that there were more than just 12 people who followed Jesus throughout his ministry. There were many people who traveled around with Jesus from the time of his baptism until he ascended. There were men and women who were disciples of Jesus. Sometimes we can forget that there were more people involved in this movement than just Jesus and the 12. But Jesus had chosen the 12 to be with him, to preach and to drive out demons. They were commissioned by Jesus to do the things he himself was doing. He chose 12 because they symbolized the 12 tribes of Israel. These 12 were a sign that Jesus was establishing the kingdom of God, and these 12 followers of his were fulfilling what the original tribes were to do, which was to demonstrate to the world what it looks like to live under the rule and authority of the one true God.
But now they are missing one because Judas betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide. As N. T. Wright says they were “one patriarch short of a true Israel” (Acts, p. 17) So they have to do something. Peter leads them in discerning a replacement for Judas but it has to be someone who has been with them from the beginning and has witnessed all that the original 12 have witnessed. They propose 2 men for the job, Joseph Barsabbas Justus and Matthias. Then they pray for guidance and cast lots to decide the vote. Casting lots was an old practice of discernment that the Jews had used for centuries. Anabaptists have used this practice as well in choosing pastors. We don’t know exactly what “casting lots” looked like here in Acts, but it was the same principle as drawing straws or flipping a coin. So they cast the lots and Matthias is chosen to take Judas’ place and the business meeting ends.
We never hear of Matthias or Joseph Barsabbas Justus again. We don’t know what happened to them. So it could be easy to just write this little business meeting off as some boring event that Luke included because someone took minutes. But that would be missing the importance of what is going one. You see the importance of this isn’t necessarily that they chose someone to take Judas’ place, or what that person did after they were chosen. What’s important is that we see the disciples’ commitment to scripture. They are guided by scripture through this whole process. It is their source. The reason they even seek to replace Judas is because of scripture. In their waiting, the disciples dedicated themselves to studying and applying scripture, listening to what God had to say to them through scripture. The scripture they had was our Old Testament and it shaped the world view and actions of these disciples.
During these days of waiting between Jesus’ ascension and the Day of Pentecost, the disciples made certain commitments to one another and one of these was to study the word together. This commitment shaped the early church. We see throughout the book of Acts this commitment to studying scripture and using it as their authority and guide in decision making. Acts 2:42 says that the believers in the early church “…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship; to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The apostles’ teaching was based on scripture. When Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and preached, he quoted the Old Testament three times. When Peter and John were brought before the Jewish religious rulers, Peter spoke to them about Jesus and quoted from the Psalms in explaining that the Jesus they crucified is the one God raised from the dead and that “the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” quoting Psalm 118:22. The apostles taught Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures. They didn’t just make things up about Jesus or only talk about what their personal opinions of him were. They had a source of information about Jesus in their own scriptures and they used that.
Scripture not only informed their witness, it informed their praying. In Acts 4, Peter and John are commanded by the religious rulers to not speak or teach in the name of Jesus again and they are threatened. So they went back to the believers and reported everything and then they all prayed together. In their prayer they again quoted the Psalms. After they finished praying, Luke reports that “…the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” What word were they speaking? They were speaking from their scriptures about Jesus.
Mennonites believe that all of the Bible is important and we read the Old Testament in light of Jesus. We look for how Jesus is revealed in the Old Testament. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets so he’s in there and it’s important that we understand what the Law and the Prophets say so that we can learn more about Jesus. Article 4 of our Confession of Faith states: “We believe that all Scripture is inspired by God through the Holy Spirit for instruction in salvation and training in righteousness. We accept the Scriptures as the Word of God and as the fully reliable and trustworthy standard for Christian faith and life. Led by the Holy Spirit in the church, we interpret Scripture in harmony with Jesus Christ.” The Bible is our source. We rely on the Holy Spirit to help us interpret Scripture and understand how to apply it to our lives. We believe that the Holy Spirit can speak to any of us through scripture. That means that any one of us can discern what God would speak to us. It’s not just me or someone from church council or only those who teach. All of us have the ability to hear God’s voice through scripture because the Holy Spirit is given to all of us who believe in Jesus.
But notice that the disciples didn’t just sit off on their own reading the scriptures and trying to figure out what it meant. They gathered together to read scripture and discuss it and talk about how they saw Jesus in those scriptures. And they gathered together daily, not just once a week or a couple of times a month. They didn’t just listen to a good bible teacher on the radio during their work commute and think that was enough. They read scripture, studied it, and gathered together every day to talk about it.
We discern what God is saying to us through scripture together. Scripture is our source but we need the input of others to help us refine what we are hearing from God. Many times Pastor Leonard and I would talk through sermon ideas and the scriptures we were studying to refine what the message would be. When I was preparing my sermon for Easter, I really didn’t have any idea of what to preach about until Pastor Steve and I got together and he was sharing his ideas for his Palm Sunday sermon. That’s what helped me understand what the focus of my sermon should be.
We can get a lot out of reading the Bible and studying it on our own, but we can get even more out of it when we come together and share what God is speaking to each of us. Many times in growth group, I’ve been struck by the things that others have gleaned from the scripture we were studying that I just didn’t see. Other people can look at scripture from a perspective that I don’t necessarily have. So it’s important that we commit to come together to read the scripture and learn from it.
As we are in a time of discernment here at OCMC, it’s important that we be reading scriptures and listening for the voice of God. And it’s important that we come together to listen to what others are hearing from God as well as share what we ourselves are hearing. This is how we will discern direction.
Listen to the voice of God in scripture every day and make the time to get with others and listen to the scripture together. The Word of God is our source of life and wisdom and strength. We need it.