The Acts of the Apostles
The Experimental Church: Powered by the Spirit
“The Church: What and Who” Click here for audio
Guest Preacher: Retired Pastor Walt Flesner
Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 9:1-6, Acts 4:23-31
At a wedding ceremony, the pastor said that if anyone had anything to say concerning the marriage of the bride and groom, it was time for them to speak. The moment of utter silence was broken by a beautiful young woman carrying a baby who was walking forward. As the couple turned to see what was happening, everything quickly turned to chaos as the bride slapped the groom, the groom’s mother fainted, the bride’s father threatened the groom and the groomsmen tried to stop more violence from happening. The Pastor, in desperation, asked the woman, “Can you tell us why you came forward? What do you have to say?” The woman replied, “We can’t hear in the back.” What a time for the church to be the church.
Now I want each of you to decide on your definition of the word “Church.” What does that word mean to you? After a time for thinking, I will offer definitions that come from the dictionary, from Biblical publications, from public discourse, from historical figures, etc.
Community of Christ; body of believers; a building; local assembly of believers; body of Christ; assembly of the redeemed; people who are commissioned; people assembled to offer prayer, read Scripture and share the body and blood of their Lord; denomination; congregation; the professional clergy; the whole body of Christians; the Lord’s house; gathering of hypocrites; a Christian place of worship; Church of Christ; the true people of God; called out assembly; all who trust Christ for salvation; Temple of God; bride of Christ; sanctuary; the people who are saved; and a hospital for the sick (Martin Luther).
- Our main problem with defining church is that Jesus never spoke of a church and perhaps he believed that the believers would grow and develop their time for gathering in the synagogues
- I know there are a couple references in the Gospels, but it is believed that the writers spoke for themselves
- The Church began on the day of Pentecost, when the gift of the Holy Spirit was given and they began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
- I attended a gathering of clergy one time and during worship we were urged to speak our prayers and praise, at the same time, ignoring others. Talk about chaos
- But it was such exciting chaos on the day of Pentecost, for people came out to see what was happening, why the excitement
- The early church caused a response from people, because wonderful events were taking place
- The Christian movement was bringing healing and hope to so many people
- And churches today offer assistance to people in need in their own communities. Homeless shelters, Food Shelves, Medical Clinics, Mobile Emergency Vehicles, Community Gardens, Clothing closets, legal consultants, Auto Clinics, Prison Ministry, Fine Arts for children, etc., wanting to bring healing and hope to people in our own communities
- The What comes from the ministries of each church, as to what they want to be their outreach to others
Which leads us to the “Who” is the church, because you can’t have outreach and ministries without people
- It is interesting to visit different churches, and go early in order to inspect their bulletin boards. One truly discovers the types of ministries that is important to them. Kay & I attend Centenary UMC in Mankato, and they are a totally inclusive community. They have a ministry they call “Holy Grounds”, and 6 mornings a week, they offer a free breakfast for the homeless, hungry, lonely, and desperate people. They have had as many as 5000 people a month attend.
- Others have ministries of distress where they are ready to offer help in time of need, such as just happened to people affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma.
- That is why I included Martin Luther’s description of the church: Hospital for the sick
- This morning I read from Acts about the working of God amongst the early Christians
- The disciples were arrested and threatened to stop speaking about Jesus. After they were freed with a warning to not speak of Jesus ever again, they went to their friends and told them what had happened. Their response was this: “And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30)
- The Who in the Church are to be offering love, joy, hope, healing, Scripture, and power through Jesus Christ
- To be the people of God we need to always be accepting of others, especially those who are in great need
- Persons who have rejected the church because they feel we are judgmental
- People want to know they are OK, that they are acceptable to God and to us, that there is hope
- That everyone is truly a child of God, a member of the family of God, worthy of forgiveness and reconciliation
- Jesus told the disciples to bring the Good News to everyone, to bring understanding to all that they can be part of the WHO
Walt also sent us his notes for his Children’s Time
A Sacred Place
The Gang liked to be in worship with their friends and parents, but one Sunday in Sunday School, Red Fox wondered why they couldn’t have their own space for worship
- The Wise Old Owl asked Red Fox why they would need a separate place to have Worship
- “Because it would only be a place for kids, not adults, our own space to Worship.” she replied.
- The Wise Old Owl promised to think about that suggestion and he did
- A couple weeks later, the Pastor joined them and he asked them questions about a separate worship place
- “You know,” he said, “there is a room that used to be a chapel here in the church. It hasn’t been used for many years.”
- He asked them to follow him and they went to the far end of the Sunday School area and he opened a door
- There was a room no one had seen before and it had stained glass windows, but they were dirty
Pokey Turtle said, “It is full of unused things, but it could be really beautiful,” as Pokey was an artist
- “We could empty the room and clean the windows, floors, lights and curtains,” Wag Dog said with excitement.
- Everyone began to offer suggestions and the noise level rose, until the Pastor said, “Alright! Do you want to do it?”
- “YES, they shouted in reply.”
- The Pastor received permission for the project and they picked a day to work and they were ready
- Their parents joined them, even though they were not invited, and the kids soon were happy they were there
- They helped moved items out of the room and suggested ways to clean the windows and they moped the floors
- By the end of the day, the room was sparkling clean and they planned to make the rooms theirs
They needed chairs, a table, candles, cleaned curtains, a kneeler, some bowls for nuts and candy, and a stand for the Bible
- The big day was upon them and they were having their first Worship Service in their space Sunday afternoon
- It was wonderful, but afterwards, Running Deer thought something was missing
- Some were surprised at the idea, but Honey Bear suggested that it did not feel “Holy”
- However, no one knew how to make it feel holy and they did not notice that the Pastor silently left the room
- He soon returned with a book that he showed them which a service for worship spaces
- “What does it say, “They asked. “Does it say how to make it feel holy?”
- “Maybe, he quietly replied. “It talks about blessing the room in the name of God.”
There was a chorus of “OOOOHHHHSSSS”, as they liked the sound of that
- “How is it done?” they asked.
- The Pastor told them they needed to go to special places in the room and ask God to bless that space with the Holy Spirit
- They thought that was OK, but they didn’t know why the Holy Spirit would bless it
- The next time they gathered, the Pastor led them to the door and he blessed it, then the table, then the reading stand, then the candles, then the nuts and candy dish, then the banners, then the kneeler, and then the Bible
- Then he stopped and stood in silence, waiting for something
- The others waited also, and they felt a gentle breeze move through the room, touching each of them
- And they moved towards each other, held hands, and thanked God for blessing their Holy Place
- It now felt right! It was their spot, God’s holy place, truly blessed by the spirit