Thought for the Week- Sunday 24th May 2020 by Rev Peter Baxandall

(10)      24th      May      Acts 1:1-9        Waiting upon God

You may recall that a few weeks ago I said that we would step out of the chronological sequence of the developments within the early church following the death and resurrection of Jesus.

I also said that at the end of the month of May we would step back into that chronological time frame as we consider the first ‘Christian’ Pentecost.

Today, as we move towards Pentecost, we look again at what was happening as we reflect on the events that saw the risen Lord taken from the disciples at His ascension.

For today’s Bible passage we look at the very beginning of the book of the Acts of the Apostles and our focus will be around Acts 1:1-9

We will reflect on that passage together in a short while – but first we look together at the song ‘My Lord, what love is this?’

This song was written by Graham Kendrick who also wrote a number of other ‘modern’ songs that we sing together and enjoy as part of our worship – and, for example, ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ is one of his songs.

Some of you will know this song ‘My Lord, what love is this?’ while others might not – but it is our hope that we can all follow the words and perhaps sing along – so let’s look at the song.               

My Lord, what love is this

that pays so dearly,

that I, the guilty one,

may go free!

   Amazing love, O what sacrifice,

   the Son of God given for me.

   My debt He pays, and my death He dies,

   that I might live, that I might live.

And so, they watched Him die

despised, rejected:

but oh, the blood He shed

flowed for me!

   Chorus

And now this love of Christ

shall flow like rivers;

come wash your guilt away,

live again!

   Chorus

We now turn to a Prayer as we bring our ‘Thought for the week’ to Him as we share this time together.

So, let us pray together:

O God the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: we beseech you, leave us not comfortless, but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us and empower us.

We pray for ourselves and our fellow church members as we share this time of ‘Thought for the week’ and reflect on your word together, even though separated by the circumstances of our present situation..

We pray for your wisdom in the name of our Saviour Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

We can now turn our attention to the passage in Acts 1:1-9 as we share today’s ‘Thought for the week’.

With the Acts of the Apostles Luke was writing volume two of a work that started with what we call the Gospel of Luke (see Luke 1:1–4); and he felt that he had to begin this work with the proper salutation and introduction. 

We don’t know who Theophilus was or even if he was a believer; but Luke’s salutation suggests that he may have been an important Roman official (see Acts 23:26; 24:3; 26:25). 

It is very likely Theophilus was a Christian or at least a seeker who was carefully studying the Christian faith. 

His name means “friend of God,” and we hope he learned the reality of the meaning of his name.

But even more important, Luke had to build a bridge between his Gospel and the Book of Acts (Luke 24:50–53). 

At the close of his Gospel after Jesus ascension, Luke had left the believers in the temple, praising God. 

Now he had to pick up the story and explain what happened next. 

Imagine how confused you might be if, in reading your New Testament, you turned from the four Gospels and suddenly found yourself reading the Epistles that form a major part of our New Testament.

You might ask yourself, “How did the church get from Easter Day in Jerusalem to all these paces – places like Rome, Corinth, Ephesus and the like?”; and the answer is found in right here the Book of Acts of the Apostles.

The Book of Acts of the Apostles could also be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit as it is also the account of the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the church. 

The Gospel of Luke records what Jesus “began both to do and teach” in His human body.

The Book of Acts tells us what Jesus continued to do and teach through His spiritual body, the church. 

Even today, congregations can learn much about church life and ministry from this book, and this even includes the business meetings!

In Acts 1:1-9, our passage for today, we see the believers taking care of “unfinished business” as they prepared for Pentecost. 

While they still had in mind the Jewish festival of Pentecost, they also had in mind that Jesus had told them in Acts 1:4 ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father has promised’.

They could not have described what was going to take place, but they knew it was going to be something special and they were ready to wait and look out for whatever it turned out to be.

After His resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for forty days and ministered to His disciples. 

He had already opened their minds to understand the Old Testament message about Himself (Luke 24:44–48), but there were other lessons they needed to learn before they could launch out in their new ministry. 

Jesus appeared and disappeared during those forty days, and the believers never knew when He might show up. 

It was excellent preparation for the church because the days were soon coming when they would no longer have Jesus among them to teach and instruct them personally. 

We have grown up having to learn that lesson that we do not meet Jesus in person, as they had been accustomed to.

However, like them we need to be aware that even though we cannot see Him we can know His presence with us.

The Lord taught them several important lessons during that time of special ministry.

Some of the believers may have had their doubts as that first Easter Day unfolded but there could be no question now that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead. 

To strengthen their faith, Luke tells us that He gave them “many infallible proofs”. 

We know that when Jesus met His disciples on that first Easter Day, He invited them to touch Him and know that He was really there with them, and He even ate before them (Luke 24:38–43). 

Whatever proofs He gave, they were convincing.

Faith in His resurrection was important to the church because their own spiritual power depended on it. 

Also, the message of the Gospel involves the truth of the Resurrection (Rom. 10:9–10; 1 Cor. 15:1–8); and, if Jesus were still dead, the church has no message of hope and salvation. 

Finally, the official Jewish position was that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body from the tomb (Matt. 28:11–15), and the believers had to be able to refute this as they witnessed to the nation.

These believers were chosen to be special witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, and that was the emphasis in their early ministry (Acts 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:30–32). 

Most of the people in Jerusalem knew that Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified, but they did not know the full reality that He had been raised from the dead. 

By their words, their walk, and their mighty works, the believers told the world that Jesus was alive. 

When you read the four Gospels, you discover that the Apostles had a strongly political view of the kingdom and were especially concerned about their own positions and privileges. 

Being loyal Jews, they had grown up with the view of Messiah that he would defeat of their enemies and re-establish the Jewish kingdom 

Among the things that Jesus taught them in this 40 day period between His resurrection and ascension was about the ‘spiritual kingdom’ that Jesus was going to establish through them when they received power (Acts 1:3). 

Jesus helped them to see that the important thing is not to be curious about the future but to be busy in the present, sharing the message of God’s spiritual kingdom. 

John the Baptist had announced a future baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33) and now that prophecy is about to be fulfilled. 

Jesus had also promised the coming of the Spirit (John 14:16–18, 26; 15:26–27; 16:7–15). 

It would be an empowering for the disciples so that they would be able to serve the Lord and accomplish His will (Luke 24:49). 

Acts 1:8 is a key verse. 

To begin with, it explains that the power of the church comes from the Holy Spirit and not from man (see Zech. 4:6). 

After Pentecost God’s people experienced repeated fillings of the Spirit as they faced new opportunities and obstacles (Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9). 

Ordinary people were able to do extraordinary things because the Spirit of God was at work in their lives. 

In the life of everyday believers today, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity.

A witness is somebody who tells what he or she has seen, heard or experienced (Acts 4:19–20) and so for us to be able to witness we must know Jesus for ourselves as Saviour and Lord.

When you are on the witness stand in court, the judge is not interested in your ideas or opinions; he only wants to hear what you have seen and know. 

Our English word martyr comes from the Greek word translated “witness,” and many of God’s people have sealed their witness by laying down their lives.

We hear a great deal these days about “soul winning,” and the emphasis is a good one. 

However, while some of God’s people have a calling to evangelism (Eph. 4:11), all of God’s people are expected to be witnesses and tell the lost about the Saviour. 

Not every Christian can bring a sinner to the place of faith and decision (though most of us could do better), but every Christian can bear faithful witness to the Saviour

Acts 1:8 also gives us a general outline of the Book of Acts as it describes the geographical spread of the Gospel: from Jerusalem (Acts 1–7) to Judea and Samaria (Acts 8–9), and then to the Gentiles and to the ends of the earth (Acts 10–28). 

No matter where we live, as Christians we should begin our witness at home and then extend it “into all the world.” 

Next week we will continue in this ‘time frame’ as we look together at that first ‘Christian’ Pentecost.

In the meantime, we conclude this ‘Thought for the week’ with prayer and then sing a song together.

Let us pray:

God our Father, you have welcomed each one of us in Jesus Christ and called us to be your body in this place. 

Send us your Holy Spirit, at this time of uncertainty and change, to fill us with vision, energy and faithfulness during this Interregnum, that we may be true to our calling to bring new life to our community. 

Guide with your heavenly wisdom those who in your name are to choose a new incumbent for this benefice.

We pray that our new incumbent may be a wise and gentle shepherd of your people: ready to serve among us with joy, to build us up in faith and to lead us by example in loving obedience to your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

Almighty God, we thank you for our ‘Thought for the week’ and the reminder of the ascension of Jesus after His 40 days of resurrection appearances.

We thank you for what He taught his followers as He prepared them for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Creator God, we pray for our troubled world, its peoples and their leaders. 

We pray for governments across the world as they continue to deal with the effects of Coronavirus and the changes that still have to be made to the way with live our daily lives.

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Father God, we pray for all the people that we encounter in our daily lives in these difficult times especially through the internet and social media.  

Help us to continually have in mind our fellow church members as each one deals with their own issues caused by this ‘lockdown’.

Keep us firm in our faith and strong in our prayerful concern for our parish and its future development.

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

We continue to pray for our parish in particular in this time of Interregnum and ask that no obstacle be placed in the way of the appointment of the person of your choice to be our next Incumbent.

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

We pray for all suffering from illness or infirmity, particularly those requesting our prayer and we give joyful thanks for those on the road to recovery.

We pray that you will continue to uphold all doctors and nurses and other carers who are helping to look after those who are ill. 

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

We continue to pray for all who are bereaved at this time and pray that they may know your loving arms around them as they continue to face this time of loss

Lord, in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Faithful God, as we go into the coming week we pray that you will help us to have in mind and to pray for your world and your people.

Be with each one of us whatever this week holds for us and ask that we may rejoice in your love each day

Merciful Father: Accept these prayers for the sake of your son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

As so, we now turn to our second song for today, ‘Oh to see the dawn’.

As you will recall it is one of those that we had in the ‘Mid-week extra’ a couple of weeks ago.

It appears that for a number of churches around the world in these days of ‘lockdown’ this has been a song of very special significance.

We pray that it will be a real blessing to us as we listen to it or sing along with it.

I will try to send the tunes for today in a separate email to accompany this ‘Thought for the week’

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

        This, the power of the cross:
        Christ became sin for us;
        Took the blame, bore the wrath -
        We stand forgiven at the cross.


Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Every bitter thought,
Every evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

        Chorus
 

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
"Finished!" the victory cry.

        Chorus

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

        FINAL CHORUS (x2)
        This, the power of the cross:
        Son of God - slain for us.
        What a love! What a cost!
        We stand forgiven at the cross.


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