Dear Brothers and Sisters,
An Easter greeting to you all. Sharing is the topic of discussion today, so I share my words with you. Enjoy.
Sermon No 68
Sharing: A Christian Characteristic
A sermon preached by Roger Laing (Parish Evangelist) on Sunday 8th April 2018 at the 8 & 10 am Eucharist Services at St. Paulinus Church, Crayford, Kent. (Based on Acts 4:32-35 and John 20:19 – end)
‘Peace be with you’ And also with you! (John 20:19). According to those more learned than I, if you capture the concentration of the congregation within the first 30 seconds of speaking then there is a chance that they might stay with you for the remainder of the sermon? So, I thought I would give this a try and start with a little joke this morning to see if that principle might work today?
So, Little Timmy didn’t want to put his money in the offertory plate one Sunday morning, so his mother decided to use some hurried and creative reasoning with him.
“You don’t want that money Timmy,” she whispered in his ear. “Quick! Drop it in the plate. It’s tainted!”
Horrified by his mother’s command, he obeyed without question, but after a few minutes little Timmy began to think about what he had done, so he turned to his mum and whispered, “But mum, why was the money tainted? Was it dirty?”
“Oh no dear,” his mother replied. “It’s not really dirty. It just ‘taint yours’, and it ‘taint mine.’ It’s God’s”
So, are you with me now? Good!
In my last sermon during Lent, which seems ages ago I know! I got you to consider the question about who Jesus was and is? And so hopefully through the many Easter services, the liturgy will have enabled you to get somewhere close in being able to answer that question for yourselves?
The basis for that sermon sprang from a question that was asked by Jesus to His disciples in Matthews gospel when He said, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Which was answered as you may recall by Simon Peter, who replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’ (Matthew 16: 16 NJKV).
These words of course were said in light of Jesus being alive in His pre-resurrection body. Today, our gospel reading shifts that emphasis to the same question, but to a later period, post-resurrection, when Jesus has died and risen from the dead.
Now this morning’s sermon is not chiefly about who Jesus is in terms of His divine status, but I think it is important to just consider that shift in time in the sense of understanding that Thomas came to the same conclusion only after he had seen the risen Jesus in person when he was able to see for him-self, and physically examine the wounds of His crucifixion.
And this aspect of the time line is an important thing to acknowledge and to take hold of just as Jesus did. For Jesus recognised the difficulty that faced Thomas when he heard that He had risen from the dead. After-all, this was not something that was on the agenda for the disciples. They were not looking at the message of Jesus as we do now in retrospect, but were actually living through that most special time in the story of God’s people.
Jesus recognised that shift in time and was able to see a period in the future when such tangible evidence as His resurrected body would no-longer be available in allowing others to determine such a conclusion that He was indeed LORD.
And thus, we hear in v29 at the end of our gospel reading that Jesus pronounces a blessing on those who have not seen the physical incarnation of Himself and ‘yet have still believed’ anyway. (John 20:29)
And this blessing is on us, it’s on me and you. A blessing that allows us to take the gospel forward and to share it with others. And it is in this aspect of sharing where I want to go today.
For Jesus is all about sharing. Every aspect of the life of Jesus was about sharing, sharing His peace, sharing His stories and parables, sharing His company with others, sharing His healing powers, and ultimately sharing Him-self with each and every one of us, through His death and resurrection.
And this sharing comes into sharp focus in our reading from the book of Acts and hopefully will cause us to reflect on this aspect of Jesus’ ministry which is requisite in all of us who claim to be Christians.
In-fact, I would go as far as saying that without a willingness to share ourselves and our possessions it is not possible to be a Christian at all.
So, if that is then the case, and sharing ourselves with others is fundamental to our practicing faith, then it is important that we take stock of our faith now and perhaps ask ourselves how much sharing of the good news of Jesus we actually do?
For it is so easy to become materialistic and play lip service to a faith where religious observance can hide a less than Christian attitude. I know Father Paul spoke on Maundy Thursday of going beyond this type of shallow faith and finding the joy in sharing with those that might on first appearance seem less than desirable!
Yet it is only by sharing what we can, and being prepared to get our hands a bit dirty do we fully become what God wants us to be.
I don’t know how many of you watched the recent series on BBC2 called Pilgrimage? But the programme followed 7 celebrities, some of which were not Christians, tackle some of the 500-mile pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela? A place where the bones of St James the Apostle are reputed to be buried
And by watching those celebrities, as they travelled together on the Camino path across Spain, the viewer was able to witness a depth of conversation that could only be progressed and worked through as the pilgrims spent time together sharing their most inner most thoughts and views on life. And in watching them journey along the route mile by mile, it reminded me of the shared experience, that we all must partake on the road of life, which becomes particularly important for those on a Christian journey. For it is only by spending time with others and building trust that barriers can be broken down allowing Christ to enter into our lives.
For the Christian faith is a relational faith and demands from us a sharing of not only our physical self with others, but also a share of our spiritual side too.
The book of Acts, or sometimes known as the Acts of the Apostles, is in many ways seen as Luke ‘part two’, as it is widely accepted as being written by the same author, but more than this, Acts could also be viewed as the Acts of the Holy Spirit, through the Apostles.
For it is by and through the Holy Spirit that men and women of the early church were directed, causing it to grow in numbers to influence and change the world forever.
Indeed, almost half the book of Acts is devoted to the ministry of Paul, revealing how he and others practiced in a literal sense the great commission, taking the message of Jesus and sharing it with others.
And so, as Christians we need to be conscious that we are all commissioned to go out and tell others of Jesus, to share the ‘good news’ and make further followers. And with that same divine influence, like it was for Paul, Peter and the other disciples, will move the church into the next generation. And this I believe will sit firmly with Fr Pauls vision for us all collectively to meet others in our own community and share with them our faith with openness, tolerance and compassion wherever they might be in their own lives?
So how might we go about this task of sharing our faith with others? Well let’s look at what our reading from Acts says: –
- Firstly – v32 says ‘Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.’ (Acts 4: 32)
So, we need to have a recognition that all we might have doesn’t really belong to us, it belongs to God. Yes, we might have custody of our possessions on a temporary basis, but none of it truly belongs to us, but to God alone.And we need to work together as one beating heart.
- Secondly – In v33 we read, ‘And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them’ (Acts 4:33)
We need to be confident in our witness to Jesus. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean shouting from a soap box (from the waterside in Crayford although it might!) It might be simply going about and getting on with doing good deeds, but the difference will be in knowing that we will be doing it in the ‘great power’ (v33) of Jesus and not being afraid to say, if asked, ‘Yes I am a Christian and I go to St Paulinus Church.’ Not always easy to do in certain company- but be bold!
For your good deeds will be seen and recognised. Remember much Christian service is indeed done quietly and in the background with little public acknowledgement, but people will see Jesus through your actions.
St Teresa of Avila said in one of her poems that ‘Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours’ And this is so true, we are the body of Christ.
- Thirdly – v34 says ‘Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold’ (Acts 4:34)
You will not be left short in living as a Christian. Now I don’t preach a prosperity gospel as some more unscrupulous preachers may do, but I do preach a gospel that says God will provide for all of our needs; which might not necessarily mean in financial terms, but it is in that act of being prepared to sell, or give away if required, that God wants to see.
But there is nothing wrong with having money and wealth, however, it is in that act of giving or acting when called to do so, that others will see Jesus.
- And fourthly v35 says ‘And laid them ‘that is their possessions’ at the apostle’s feet, and they were distributed to each as anyone had need’ (Acts 4: 35)
Now v36 which follows our reading this morning, we can read that Barnabas the disciple of Paul did just that, he did sell all his possessions and laid them at the feet of the apostles, and in so doing became a prominent figure in the sharing of the gospel as recorded later in Acts.
On the back of this passage from Acts I heard a nice story this week following the sad news of the death of the footballer Ray Wilkins. Now I don’t claim to have much knowledge of football, it being the wrong shape ball and all that!
“But an unknown former soldier who had previously fallen on hard times rang into the radio station talkSPORT and recalled a meeting with Ray Wilkins and I would just like to recall that conversation as it was recorded in the media: –
And the former soldier told presenter Jim White just what Wilkins meant to him, having asked after his welfare as he sat on a piece of cardboard outside London’s Brompton station.
The caller said, “I recognised him straight away. We sat on my bit of cardboard together and he took time to sit and talk.
I was a gambler at the time – I still am, but I’m recovering – and I told him about that. We talked about my time in the Army.
He took a phone call while we were talking but said to the caller, I’m busy at the moment I will call you back.
He gave me £20. Told me to get myself a hot meal and then we went across the road for coffee.
When the bill came, I said to him, let me buy this one. I want to feel like a man and he said that he totally understood that.
I used the money he gave me and got shelter that night and I met a guy who helped ex-soldiers.
Choking with emotion, the soldier added, I am not gambling now, I have a place and have met a beautiful woman who I am about to marry.
I put it down to Ray Wilkins. I just wanted to thank him for talking to a man he never even knew, who was nothing to him really – a stranger.
He was a hero, a real hero, to me and millions around the world.” (thesun.co.uk, 06/04/2018)
Now I don’t know whether Ray Wilkins was a Christian, or had any faith in God at all, but what I do know is that the kindness he showed to that stranger is the sort of act that Jesus would do. He met a stranger in a time of need and shared, not only his money, but he shared his time and he shared his kindness. And God used that kindness to give back even more than was given.
The bible does of course have plenty to say on the matter of giving and how God rewards the faithful giver, but the one passage that I find quite revealing is from the second book of Kings, when the prophet Elijah is about to be taken from the earth and Elisha, his prodigy only concerned with serving God requests a double portion of Elijah’s spirit in order that he may carry on his ministry (2 Kings 2:9) And interestingly scripture records exactly twice as many miracles through Elisha as took place through Elijah’s ministry (28 miracles v 14 miracles respectively)
Maybe it’s just coincidence! Or perhaps it is God being faithful to His faithful servants!
The joke I started with about Little Timmy and how he didn’t want to give his money away is a good place to end this sermon, for if we remember that all we are, and all we have, ‘taint ours’, but belongs to God, and if we share both ourselves and our goods as though they really did belong to Him. Then I think God would be extremely pleased.
Peace be with you.