Acts 4:5-12, 1 John 3:16-24
Spiders are clever hunters. Many will use their webs to catch unsuspecting prey. When constructing a web, spiders will use their own bodies as a measurement – webs on average are 20 times larger than the spider that created it. To begin constructing a web, a spider will send out a guide line – a ‘feeler’ strand if you will. It is a sticky strand of webbing that a spider will float out on a breeze. When it attaches to something, the spider with then reel in the tension and begin construction. Everything depends on this guideline. If a spider were to forget what the guideline was for and detach it, the web would collapse.
Now that we have initiated your nature adventure, you are probably wondering what this has to do with today’s sermon topic. What is the guideline for the church? What is the one strand of which if we detach ourselves from would cause us to no longer be a church? What is our linchpin?
Our scripture lesson in the book of Acts gives us glimpses of the beginnings of the church after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven. Peter and John had just laid hands on a man who was lame. They noted ‘in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ Peter made it known that it was because of Jesus that this man received healing. One would think that after witnessing such a miracle, the leaders of the synagogue would rejoice with the now-healed man. Instead, they were desperately trying to squash any belief in Jesus as the Messiah.
Why? From our perspective it seems quite obvious. Here are some of the facts: No other religious leaders were performing such miracles. The crippled man was well known in the area. Peter and John were followers of Jesus, having witnessed his death and resurrection. They accepted Jesus as the son of God and gave Jesus full credit for this man’s healing.
But many could not accept Jesus as the son of God. Jesus’ message was seen as radical – turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love your enemies. The religious leaders of the day were interested in regaining their land from the Romans. Jesus refused to pick up a sword but instead took on a crown of thorns. Jesus in fact criticized the religious leaders for their hypocritical ways – showing outward holiness only. Jesus was not what they anticipated as their Messiah, therefore the religious leaders refused to see God in the flesh.
Can we? Can we say without a doubt that Jesus was sent to earth to live his life, teach a message of hope and love, die a criminals death, raise from the dead three days later, and send the Holy Spirit to instill boldness and faith in a band of misfits who later went on to preach the gospel wherever they went? Where do we fit into the story? Do we really believe in this whole Easter thing?
Anyone here remember the X-files? It was a television show in the 1990’s that featured Fox Molder who believes in the existence of aliens and sets off to prove their existence with the assistance of scientist Dana Scully. The theme I saw on posters everywhere was “The Truth is Out There.” Throughout their quest, Molder and Scully come face-to-face with those in the government who were bound and determined to keep the truth hidden from public view. Laced within their quest was this question raised in the show’s theme song – ‘Do you really want to know?’
It seems the religious leaders of Jesus’ time were also attempting to hide the truth. They did not want to face the fact that they had accused the son of God with blasphemy, yet the truth was right in front of them. They did not want to believe Jesus rose from the dead but must have been somehow removed from a sealed tomb by thieves. They did not want to face Jesus’ accusations of a false faith – one they held which was rooted in greed and selfishness. The truth was out there. I believe God was reaching out to them, showing infinite grace and compassion even when these leaders were refusing to acknowledge the resurrected Jesus through the faith of his followers.
I will go out on a bold limb and state that for Christians, the belief in Jesus as the son of God is our linchpin. Without this belief, everything we have based our faith upon falls apart. We cannot find peace in troubled times without looking to the one who calms the storms. We cannot find strength to stand against the trials of life without looking to the one who walked the road to Calvary. We cannot rest in the hope of eternal life for ourselves and those whom we love who have gone on before us without looking to the one who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. We cannot become a part of the gospel message of peace and love beyond all understanding without looking to the one who sent the Holy Spirit as comforter and guide.
There are those for whom the church is meaningless. There are those who assume that all religions are basically the same so it really doesn’t matter what you believe. If we take care of ourselves and our families, and everyone else does the same, we really do not need to worry about the son of God.
In the epistle lesson from 1 John, we hear a message concerning love. We like to use that word a lot – we claim we love everything from our soulmate to our chocolate bar. When we are followers of Christ, our hearts are changed. We have eyes for the cares and concerns of those around us. We put aside some of our precious time to help others in need. I wanted to take a moment to thank all of those who went with us last weekend to help out our brother Ben Matthews. Ben has missed being a part of the church. He misses the fellowship and the joy that comes from serving others. He finds himself struggling with his physical limitations. Thank you for taking the church to Ben. Thank you for giving up your Saturday to help someone who can no longer do yard projects. Thank you for showing Ben and his family that they are not forgotten.
This week we have another opportunity to put our faith into action. We are serving a turkey dinner with all the trimmings to the folks at the Lighthouse Shelter. We will share a meal together and listen and share stories. Can you help us by putting your love for God into action for the least of these? I promise you will be blessed the more you give and share God’s love with others.
Take a look at your bulletin cover – “Let us not love with words or speech but with action and truth.” That is how others will know we are followers of Christ. It is easy to talk the talk, but often much harder to walk the walk. When we know deep in our hearts that Jesus loved us so much that he willingly laid down his life for each of us, our faith becomes much more that words. When we experience the assurance that the son of God walked on this earth preaching love and caring for others even during troubled times, our faith becomes much more than words. When we see Jesus as the true cornerstone of our lives, without which there is no meaning, our faith becomes much more than words.
The truth is out there – Jesus is the son of God. Not only is this a factor of our Christian faith, but I’m counting on it! I’m counting on the promise of eternal life. I’m counting on the opportunity to rest in the arms of God. I’m counting on the companion who walks with me even through the valley of the shadow of death. Jesus Christ – the son of God. That is the linchpin of our faith. The choice is ours. We can choose to travel through live with or without Jesus. For me, as our closing hymn will state, ‘I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.’ Amen.