Summary: The final sermon of a fall 2005 sermon series through Acts
This morning we conclude our series in Acts and we begin with a test. Yes, a test. Actually, a couple of tests that deal with famous statements and ‘last words.’ However, they are tests that frame the important issue of finishing well in life and St. Paul’s intention of finishing well as he faced the unknown in his return to Jerusalem for the last time.
Here is our first test. (Overhead 1) On the overhead, is a list of famous people, three of whom made the ‘famous’ statements I am about to read.
I will read each statement and then ask you to tell me who said it. Ready? Here we go!
1. "Who the [heck] wants to hear actors talk?" HM Warner
2. "I’m just be glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper." Gary Cooper
3. "No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris." Orville Wright
Now for test number two. As with test number one, here is a list of famous people.
Thomas A. Edison
Now, here are there purported ‘last words’ they spoke before dying or rendered incapable of speech. Who said what?
1. How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden? PT Barnum
2. I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis. Humphrey Bogart
3. I’m bored with it all. Winston Churchill
4. That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted. Lou Costello
5. That was a great game of golf, fellers. Bing Crosby
6. It is very beautiful over there. Thomas A. Edison
7. I have a terrific headache. FDR
8. I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have. Leonardo DaVinci
9. Either that wallpaper goes, or I do. Oscar Wilde
10. I am ready. Woodrow Wilson
Our text for this morning contains one of the most emotional scenes in the Bible. Paul is heading back to Jerusalem one final time as he completes his third and final missionary journey through the Mediterranean world.
As he arrives in Miletus, a port in what is now western Turkey, on what he believes is his final trip to Jerusalem (this is implied in verses 22 and 23) he sends for the leaders of the church in city of Ephesus around 30 miles away. Now earlier in this final journey, Paul encountered some very severe opposition that nearly cost him his life and that of some of his aides.
Paul presents in his messages to people one God who is the creator God and who stands apart from creation. This is in direct opposition to the teachings and practices of many communities such as Ephesus, in which worship of many gods (small ‘g’) is practiced. Gods who were a part of creation. And it gets Paul noticed in some not very nice and good ways. Why?
It threatens the social and economic order of a community. For as we read in Acts 19, when people turned from the pagan worship of the god Artemis and to Christianity, there were some people who felt it in the pocket book and it got them angry (and no this is not a sermon about money and the church).
So as we read in verses 23 through 41 of Acts 19, a man named Demetrius, who was a silversmith, found that business for Artemis silver shrines was falling off and people’s jobs were affected. This was unacceptable.
So, he calls everyone together and basically says, ‘We’ve got to put a stop to this!’ And in verse 26, we read that he blames Paul for the problem.
Well, a riot ensues and they decided to take matters into their own hands and rid the city of these troublemakers. Paul wants to confront them but some of the other Christians restrain him from doing so.
Eventually a wise Mayor calms the crowd down and says, ‘Cool it or the Romans will get involved and we won’t know what to say.’ Therefore, everybody goes home.
Now, even before that, there is a big bonfire because some people decided that their incantation books were not good ones to keep around and so they burned them. Acts 19:19 says, ‘The value of the books was several million dollars.’ (Talk about economic impact!)
In the opening sermon of this series, I spoke of the ‘faith impact’ of our witness. And I used the following overhead to remind us of how far our faith impact goes. (Overhead 3)
Our faith affects (or it should) our spending habits and our lifestyle choices and a whole host of things that we often do not realize. But, that is not where we are heading this morning. Our destination is Acts 20:22-24 because these verses contain the statement of a person whose faithfulness to God and to the faith remains strong and evident as he begins to face the end of his active ministry and even the end of life itself.