Sept 24, 2017 – A Unifying Message
Preacher: Rev. Scott Strickman
Sermon Series: With One Accord
Acts 8:1-8 (ESV)
1 And Saul approved of his execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.
The gospel message crosses every human divide and creates a new community that deepens through (among other things) devotion to the apostle’s teaching.
- God speaks; human beings don’t listen.
- Human Divisions (Hebraic/Hellenist, Jewish/Samaritan)
- God makes friends out of enemies.
Questions for Reflection
- The Bible records a history of people not listening to God. What do you find hard about listening to God? Understanding? Trusting? Doing? Agreeing?
- How can a diverse church (the church in the world) maintain unity while not erasing distinctions (not demanding uniformity)? What practices deepen our community and promote unity? What are key principles that guide us in community life?
- The Samaritans were considered enemies yet many believed and became part of this early forming Christian community. Saul (Paul) persecuted the church, but is radically changed and ends up writing the majority of our New Testament. How does God make friends out of enemies? How should this shape your understanding of your own connection to God? How should this shape how you treat those you may think of as enemies?
- How can Christian Bible study be a means of deepening relationships among Christians?
- Do you read the Bible “devotionally”, meaning with a view to hearing from God and deepening your walk with Him? How can you devote yourself to the “apostle’s teaching” in a way that nourishes your spiritual life?
Prayer of Confession
Our Father, we confess our stubbornness. We have ears, but we don’t hear. We don’t devote ourselves to listening to your word with any consistency, to understanding and trusting what you say, to aligning our lives with the things you have made known. We see how our failure to really listen has resulted in division, racism, arrogance, oppression, and many behaviors and interactions contrary to your ways. As a church we have not presented a united witness of our love for one another. We have confused the message of your gracious invitation to all people. Yet, you make enemies friends, and offer forgiveness through Christ. We look to him for forgiveness and appeal to you for the power to change us and our community. Amen.