Summary: Do you choose to be a fossil or to be fuelled with the Spirit?
Does anyone know what this is?
It’s a Belemnite - lets call him Bob. Bob the Belemnite. We are going to come back to Bob in a little while.
Our Acts reading that [insert name] read for us is great reading, but for those of you who haven't read the whole book of Acts, it might not make much sense. So lets go back to the beginning. It’s a few years after Pentecost. The church is spreading like wildfire amongst Jews and converts to Judaism but has remained so far a Jewish Sect. One day Peter is fast asleep on a friend’s roof garden when God speaks to him in a dream. Three times a sheet is lowered full of food that Peter would have found disgusting - like snakes and insects and bacon sandwiches. And three times God says “take and eat” and Peter says “I can’t eat that - it’s unclean” And God says “Don’t call unclean what I have called clean”
And just then Peter is woken by the doorbell - It’s messengers from a Roman Centurion called Cornelius, and unclean gentile called Cornelius - saying he too has had a dream and asking Peter to come preach to him and his family.
And so we get to our reading - where before Peter can even finish his sermon the Holy Spirit comes on Cornelius and his family. They are speaking in tongues- possibly dropping to the floor under the power of the Spirit, possibly overcome by tears or peace or laughter - we don’t know exactly what happened - but we know it was dramatic. We know it was visible.
So without waiting to circumcise anyone, or even giving them a lecture on the intricacies of kosher, there and then, from the oldest adult to the youngest baby, Peter baptises every one of them.
Now we are dirty unclean gentiles. Without this event that happened to Cornelius and his family, none of us would be Christians today.
I want you to think back to the person without whom you wouldn’t be a Christian today. It might be a friend who invited you to church. It might be a grandparent or parent who prayed with you or took you to Sunday school. It might be the Sunday School teacher or the person who led the confirmation class. It might be someone who put a leaflet through your door inviting you to church.
Think back to that person. How do you feel about that person?
Those are all positive things you are saying about the person who led you to Christ. If I asked you what you felt about doing evangelism, you might well say that you felt scared or anxious about how your friend would react if you told them about Jesus. Yet listen to those beautiful positive phrases you are saying about the people who introduced you to Jesus.
Evangelism is often easier than we expect.
When a group of carols at tube station - each year we have ended up with passers by being prayed for and I have had people on the streats ask me when we are going to be doing it again.
When we did a carol service in the Black Horse Pub, some of the locals were a bit suspicious but by the end of it they were all joining in and we had several really profound conversations with locals afterwards.
When Peter goes and preaches to Cornelius. What’s the last verse we read? Is it “how dare you push your views down our throat?” - no, it’s “they invited him to stay for several days”. No it’s “They invited him to stay for several days” They are overjoyed to have heard about Jesus.
So Evangelism’s easy, yes? Yes! But there’s a “but”
There’s a “but” -
Before we get to the “but” - I interrupt this sermon with an important public service announcement.
That’s not me. That’s the Holy Spirit.
Peter - fab preacher Peter - is preaching a fab sermon - and the Holy Spirit interrupts. And Cornelius and his friend begin speaking in tongues- possibly dropping to the floor under the power of the Spirit, possibly overcome by tears or peace or laughter - we don’t know exactly what happened - but we know it was dramatic. We know it was visible - we know the Holy Spirit interrupted big time.
The Holy Spirit interrupts. The Holy Spirit Disrupts
On the day of Pentecost the disciples were having a quiet early morning prayer meeting, when the Holy Spirit interrupted, the Holy Spirit disrupted. They began praising God in other tongues - so ecstatic in the Spirit that some passers by thought they were drunk - But the result of that disruption. 3000 people became Christians on that day.