After Christ ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, Peter gave the first sermon. Here at the beginning of Acts, we see Luke transitioning from his account of Jesus’ ministry to the growth and movement of the church. What Luke is going to show us is how the church continues the mission of Jesus. So, when we get to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, we have to pause for a moment and ask what the purpose of Jesus’ ministry is.
Later this year, we’re going work through the Gospel of Luke together to see what Jesus was doing so we can then go through Acts and see what the church was doing. Luke intended those two letters to be read together (and we split them up with the Gospel of John). The church is the natural outpouring and continuation of Jesus’ ministry. So, what was the purpose of Jesus’ ministry? The natural second question then is, what is the purpose of the Church?
In the sermon this Sunday, I will introduce this year’s vision and direction for our church. We want to focus this year on what it means to GROW together. In a short response to the questions above, Jesus came to show Israel what it means to be God’s people, a Royal Priesthood, a Chosen nation, the Kingdom of God, etc. etc. etc. He came to reestablish what the community of God’s people are supposed to look like, promising the Holy Spirit to guide them and unify them. The natural flow from Luke to Acts shows the church forming communities of believers who did life together and intentionally set out to GROW together.
When Peter preached the first sermon, Acts 2:42-47 was the natural reaction for people who believed Christ was the Messiah and received baptism and the Holy Spirit. Within this short passage we see how to GROW. To GROW in the Christian walk, we need to Gather, Receive, Offer, and Worship (G.R.O.W.).
When we think about the purpose of Jesus’ ministry, we often hear that he came to bring us into a personal relationship with God. While this is not wrong, this is not fully correct and even leads to an unhealthy spiritual life. The Christian walk was always intended to be lived out in community together. The church is community of people who have committed to a different way of life that is different from the world. This community is the place where we learn to live out the Gospel as we extend grace, peace, mercy, and love to one another. God never intended for faith to be privatized but to be lived out in relationship with others.
In this faith community we gather, everyone has something they need to receive, everyone has something to offer, and the natural outpouring of community is worship. This is how we GROW together this year. We Gather. We Receive from one another. We bring something to Offer one another. We Worship together. Worship pours back into Gathering and the relationships built through Receiving and Offering spurs us into greater Worship. To make this GROWing a reality, we have to GROW outside of just meeting on Sunday mornings.
This Sunday, as I introduce this vision, I’m going to take us into the book of Ephesians. Most of the letters written, that make up the New Testament, are written to guide faith communities into living out God’s vision. Relationships are always messy and need work. Ephesians is written to remind the church who they are called to be. As long we are on this side of our resurrection, we will always have room to GROW. In preparation for Sunday, take a moment to read Ephesians 4:1-16.
What is the funny image that Paul uses at the end of this section? We are the body of Christ, still in need to maturing. Let’s work together to become who we are called to be at the Body of Christ.