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I’m not great at waiting; I don’t enjoy it. I especially find it hard to wait when I’m anticipating something exciting but I know the date is still far off. How do we wait in anticipation?

Our story this Sunday is about the early church waiting for God’s promise. This diverse group finds a way to join together as they wait.

Acts 1:12-14   (CEB)

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a sabbath day’s journey away. When they entered the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter, John, James, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James, Alphaeus’ son; Simon the zealot; and Judas, James’ son— all were united in their devotion to prayer, along with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

 

What is a sermon preview?
Sermon previews are released on Thursdays. They offer a glimpse of what we’re talking about on Sunday morning. They are updated on Mondays with study and discussion questions. I post these for two reasons. First, I hope they help you connect the sermon with your week. Second, you can share these with friends so they know what we’re exploring on Sunday.
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The Book of Acts tells stories about God’s Spirit doing big things. Our story this Sunday contains one of the biggest shifts the early church experienced. The disciples are surprised and amazed at what God’s power can do!

Have you ever wondered how to tell if God is moving? How can we discover what God is up to or if an idea is from God? And once we discover that God is moving, what is our role?

 

Acts 10:44-48 (CEB)

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on everyone who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. They heard them speaking in other languages and praising God. Peter asked, “These people have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. Surely no one can stop them from being baptized with water, can they?” He directed that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited Peter to stay for several days.

When we recognize God’s Spirit moving, our job is to celebrate and join in! God will provide the vision; Spirit is always moving ahead of us.

For Your Week

Personal Reflection:

What is a dream that you have? Using these three questions, where do you find God in that dream?

  1. Is this dream consistent with who God is and God’s desire for the world?
  2. Does this praise God?
  3. Does this draw me out beyond myself toward something greater?

 

Scripture Questions:

Read Acts 10:1-43. How does Peter’s vision inspire him to respond?

Read Mark 7:14-23. How do Jesus’ words here compare to Peter’s vision?

What stories can you think of that show God inviting all people into relationship?

 

Table Questions:

When have you experienced an invitation grow bigger?

How do we make space for new people in our communities (neighborhood, school, work, church)?

What is a dream you have? How can we help you discern where God is in it?

 

Prayer:

God, your Holy Spirit moves ahead us, calling us out into new places. Amaze us with your dream. Surprise us with the new people you invite. Help us celebrate what you are doing in the world.

What is a sermon preview?
Sermon previews are released on Thursdays. They offer a glimpse of what we’re talking about on Sunday morning. They are updated on Mondays with study and discussion questions. I post these for two reasons. First, I hope they help you connect the sermon with your week. Second, you can share these with friends so they know what we’re exploring on Sunday.

Has someone ever asked you a great question? A question that made you really stop and think before you answered? A question that helped you clarify your own thinking? There’s power in a great question.

Great questions can open space to hear from God and share good news with others. After listening to God, Philip asks a great question that unlocks the opportunity to change a man’s life.

Acts 8:26-35             (CEB)

An angel from the Lord spoke to Philip, “At noon, take the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) So he did. Meanwhile, an Ethiopian man was on his way home from Jerusalem, where he had come to worship. He was a eunuch and an official responsible for the entire treasury of Candace. (Candace is the title given to the Ethiopian queen.) He was reading the prophet Isaiah while sitting in his carriage. The Spirit told Philip, “Approach this carriage and stay with it.”

Running up to the carriage, Philip heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?”

The man replied, “Without someone to guide me, how could I?” Then he invited Philip to climb up and sit with him. This was the passage of scripture he was reading:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter

   and like a lamb before its shearer is silent

   so he didn’t open his mouth.

In his humiliation justice was taken away from him.

   Who can tell the story of his descendants

       because his life was taken from the earth?

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, about whom does the prophet say this? Is he talking about himself or someone else?” Starting with that passage, Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him.

 

For Your Week

Personal Reflection:

How am I building quiet space into my day to hear the Holy Spirit? What could I change to add more time?

How am I at making space to listen closely to others? How could I do better?

 

Scripture Questions:

Philip has a similar discourse with Nathanael in John 1:43-46. How does Philip invite Nathanael?

The eunuch is reading from Isaiah 53:7-8. How do these verses and Isaiah 53 as a whole point to Jesus?

 

Questions around your table:

How are we making space to listen closely to one another? How could we do better?

What did you learn in past week you’ll still care about in 5 years?

 

Prayer

 Holy Spirit, move through me. Open my ears to hear your quiet whisper. Open my heart to listen deeply. Guide me to come alongside others to help them discover who you are. Amen.

 

What is a sermon preview?

Sermon previews are released on Thursdays. They offer a glimpse of what we’re talking about on Sunday morning. They are updated on Mondays with study and discussion questions. I post these for two reasons. First, I hope they help you connect the sermon with your week. Second, you can share these with friends so they know what we’re exploring on Sunday.

Sermon Preview: Disciples

Have someone ever given you a really big goal, so big you weren’t sure how to get started? What did you do? Were you excited or nervous? Did you think it was even possible?

In this passage Jesus gives the disciples a really big goal in the form of the church’s first mission statement. We’ll see some clues about how Jesus believes we can accomplish the goal.

Matthew 28:16-20            (CEB)

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”

Jesus instructs his disciples to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations, what we call today “the Great Commission.” That sounds like a tall order, but Jesus says the church can do this because he has received authority and he promises to be with us always. And we remember that Jesus starts his ministry with a small group. We don’t have to get the whole world at once; we start with one person. God’s great mission starts with one.

 

Personal Reflection:

When is a time you have been “commissioned,” given a goal and then trained or equipped to live it out?

Who is one person whom you could walk alongside and share your faith?

What’s one thing you could teach or share about your faith with someone else?

What good does being a Christian bring to your life?

 

Scripture Questions:

What details are the same in this story as with the previous two we’ve read (Luke 24:36-48 and John 20:19-31)? What’s different?

Matthew narrates several big events happening on a mountain. Why do you think that is?

 

Questions around your table:

What’s a big goal you have for yourself? For our family?

Who is someone who discipled you, who walked alongside you and taught you something about your faith?

What good does being a Christian bring to your life?

 

What is a sermon preview?

Sermon previews are released on Thursdays. They offer a glimpse of what we’re talking about on Sunday morning. They are updated on Mondays with study and discussion questions. I post these for two reasons. First, I hope they help you connect the sermon with your week. Second, you can share these with friends so they know what we’re exploring on Sunday.

Sermon Preview: Witness

Do you have any scars? Do you remember the stories behind them? Even after we’re healed, we still carry reminders of our wounds. After his resurrection, Jesus shows the disciples his scars. Why would he still have scars after his resurrection?

Here’s what we learn from the resurrection: our scars are not erased but they are redeemed.

Luke 24:36-48 (CEB)

While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” They were terrified and afraid. They thought they were seeing a ghost.

He said to them, “Why are you startled? Why are doubts arising in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. Because they were wondering and questioning in the midst of their happiness, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish. Taking it, he ate it in front of them.

Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

We all carry scars, physical and emotional, that stick with us. When we can look on them with perspective, our scars become places where we’ve seen healing. Our scars are those mistakes we’ve grown from or times when we’ve received or shared forgiveness. We can point to them and say, “God was here for me.”

Our scars show where God has been in our lives as they tell the story of God’s grace. Looking back over your life, what’s a scar that points to God’s grace? How can you share that story of where God showed up for you?

 

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the ways you have redeemed my story. Thank you for the places you have appeared in my life. I offer you this wound to be redeemed. Help me ask for forgiveness where I have hurt others and offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me. Heal this wound so that it too can witness to your grace.

 

Going Deeper:

What does the promise that our scars are not erased but they are redeemed mean for you? What is a wound for which you still seek healing?

 

Scripture Study Questions:

Who are the “they” in v36? (Read Luke 24:13-35)

What details are the same from the story in John 20:19-31? What is unique in Luke’s story?

Why does it matter that Jesus eats a piece of fish?

 

Questions around your table:

What’s the story of one of your scars?

Why did the disciples think Jesus was a ghost?

Where have you seen God’s love this week?

 

What is a sermon preview?

Sermon previews are released on Thursdays. They offer a glimpse of what we’re going to talk about on Sunday morning. They are updated on Mondays with study and discussion questions. I post these for two reasons. First I hope they help you see the sermon connecting with your week. Second, I hope you’ll share these with friends so they know what we’re exploring on Sunday

I love the movie Chef (2014). It tells the story of chef Carl Casper, a workaholic who must re-invent himself after he has a public meltdown over a bad review. Carl is not a likeable character at the start. He’s incredibly flawed. His poor communication skills have led to a strained relationship with his son and likely the reason for his divorce. Those flaws get amplified in the events leading to his meltdown. We don’t like him and I’m not sure we’re supposed to. But we see that his friends like him and his staff respects him, so he can’t be all bad. That’s enough for us to root for his redemption, even as we’re not sure why he deserves it.

 

Ultimately, I think this movie is about communication. How do we communicate what’s important to us? How do we communicate with who is important to us?

 

Carl’s communication at the beginning of the movie is terrible. He ducks his son and backs out of promises to spend time. Even when he’s physically with him, his mind often seems elsewhere. While we don’t know for certain, it feels likely that this same distance led to his divorce. Communication at work is not much better. Carl has a good relationship with his staff, but has clear miscommunication with his boss, which eventually leads Carl getting fired.

 

It’s not until midway through the movie that we finally see a turn. In this fantastically weird scene Carl’s ex-wife’s ex-husband (played wonderfully by Robert Downey Jr) talks circles around Carl and no one, neither Carl nor the audience, ever seems to truly understand where the conversation is going. Perhaps at this point Carl finally starts to realize what poor communication feels like from the other side. His bewilderment, and ours, is almost palpable. From that moment on, his communication improves. Whether it’s from this experience or simply the change in scenery, Carl starts to communicate more clearly and transform into a character we can root for.

 

I love how Chef illustrates technology throughout the movie. We see little animated blue birds flying off into the air whenever tweets are sent and shared. A cute reminder that once the message is out there, it takes on a life of its own. The use of Twitter throughout the movie helps drive home how fraught our communication has become with the growth of technology. Without visual or aural cues, or even space to formulate full thoughts, it’s become increasingly easy to misunderstand people or misrepresent oneself.

 

That’s not to say that Twitter is all bad. Carl’s son Percy uses it within the food truck business to help Carl reinvent himself. Percy’s engagement with the tool is the most mature, ironic as he is the youngest cast member by far. However through Percy we see how technology can be used to foster communication between people. His “one second video” experiment finally helps Carl see in a fresh way the value of their relationship and leads to a new avenue of communication between them.

 

Follow Carl’s journey we’re left at the end to ponder if our own use of technology is helping or hindering our communication. Are we paying attention or missing out on relationships right in front of us? Are we connecting deeper or staying at a surface level? Are we using the tool or is the tool using us?

Abundance of Grace

 

We celebrated communion a couple Sundays back. During the Great Thanksgiving, as I lifted the bread, my daughter immediately started signing for “more” and “eat.” It was all I could do to keep from laughing! She may not have known everything that was happening in worship, but she knew Daddy had food and she wanted some!

She doesn’t know the words of institution. She can’t tell you the theological mystery of the bread and cup being the body and blood. But she knows someone who loves her is offering something worth having.

Sometimes I need reminding. God’s invitation is big enough for everyone. God’s grace is abundant for everyone. There’s more than enough for everyone.

And I don’t have to say all the right words or even know them. I don’t have to understand how everything fits together. All I have to know is that someone who loves me is offering something worth having. I can come to the table and receive.