Summary: If we are going to follow the Church of Acts we must break down the doors of fear and burst out of the holy huddle of the upper room; we must allow the Holy Spirit to use us in this day and age.
BRIDGES AND DITCHES: THE BOOK OF ACTS FOR TODAY**
Big Idea: If we are going to learn from the church of Acts we must break down the doors of fear and burst out of the holy huddle of the upper room; we must allow the fresh wind and fresh fire of the Holy Spirit to use us in this day and age.
• Isaiah 43:18-21 – (Responsive Reading)
• Mark 2:18-22 (Welcome and Call to Worship)
ACTS 17:1-9 (ESV)
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “THESE MEN WHO HAVE TURNED THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN HAVE COME HERE ALSO, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
Erik the Red’s Viking Settlement
A thousand years ago, a group of Vikings led by Erik the Red set sail from Norway for the vast Arctic landmass west of Scandinavia known as Greenland. It was largely uninhabitable; a forbidding expanse of snow and ice. But along the southwestern coast there were two deep fjords protected from the harsh winds and saltwater spray of the North Atlantic Ocean, and as the Norse sailed upriver they saw grassy slopes flowering with buttercups, dandelions, and bluebells, and thick forests of willow and birch and alder. Two colonies were formed, three hundred miles apart, known as the Eastern and Western Settlements.
As the Norse began to settle these colonies they relied on the values and habits they learned from Europeans. They thought Greenland was really green and treated it like the fertile lands of southern Norway. Cattle were a prized possession – the problem was that the ecosystem was so fragile and the growing season so short that both grassland and cattle could not be sustained … but the Vikings carried on.
They cleared the woodlands for heat and lodging as the Europeans did. But the ecosystem was too fragile and the lack of trees brought erosion. They needed to copy their neighbors, the Inuit, and practice burning seal blubber for heat and light in the winter; to learn from the Inuit the difficult art of hunting ringed seals, which were the most reliably plentiful source of food available in the winter. But the Norse had contempt for the Inuit—they called them skraelings, “wretches”—and preferred to practice their own brand of European agriculture.
Do you know what happened? The Viking settlements led by Erik the Red became extinct. All because they chose not to adapt to the area they lived in.
(Source: New Yorker Magazine, January 3, 2005)
Communicating new ideas to people is not easy. The default is almost always “no” and suspicious minds can always find evidence to discard the idea … at least at first. This is particularly true when the people involved are entrenched in a “persuasion” and so tethered to its practices that they cannot conceive of or consider any idea that might compete. Especially when those entrenched practices have proven effective in the past … it is assumed they will be as affective in the present and the future. Erik the Red’s community is an example of this … so are other “institutions.”
It is possible, as I said earlier in the worship service, for a local church to want the community to orbit around it rather than the church choosing to “orbit” around Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The outcomes are significantly different.
And the mission of the church is too important and too necessary not to pause and take thought.
I like what the Christian historian Michael Green says about this.
Some bemoan the move in the United States away from faith to secularism. I understand – it is tragic. But, they say, “we are now lost – there is no hope.” I must part ways here. Yes we are becoming more and more secular … more and more like the world in the first century. So I have to ask … if our world is going to become like the world of the first century – when will we become like the church of the first century? ...