Sermon Series: More Than Conquerors

5/14 - 6/19/2022

In the early first century, culturally speaking, everything was positioned around the idea that a nation ought to expand and conquer to accumulate power and influence. In this way, the movement that began with Jesus was positioned well to be a religion that was focused on going out in the world, spreading its message to new nations, and converting others to this system of beliefs. The world was primed for a religious movement that would respond to the great commission, and in effect, go forth and conquer. Yet, the church was not about conquering. It did not hope to extinguish and assimilate every other person and culture. Instead, the early church grew on the basis that it had the ability to universally speak to the human condition of brokenness and offer hope and promise in the wake of that very condition. The church would be more than the conquerors.

Everyone was coming to believe in the promise of God. The Gospel reached into different cultures, differently idioms and languages altogether. In this message, they preached and believed that Jesus would return again, and would return again sooner rather than later. Nobody could have fathomed the idea that 2000 years into the future, we would still be waiting on this return. They were teaching each other lessons and lifting each other up in the hopes that they would be alive to see the grand return. However, those lessons taught have a practicality that transcends any time period.

In growing over this time, the church moved beyond the disciples. What was once an effort of individuals and leaders who had all had direct connections to, and conversations with, the risen Lord now transitioned to a movement of different ages, nations, and races of converted believers who had simply heard the Good News of the Gospel. They would lean on their own spiritual experiences of the divine rather than tangible interactions with God Incarnate. What will leadership look like in this new Church? Who can be a part of this faith movement? What will be required to participate? Most importantly, how do those messages speak to us today?

Messages

6/18 - 6/19/2022 (June 17 and 18) | A New Heaven, A New Earth

Acts 6. The New Heaven and the New Earth. God’s final work of the cosmos is done, and humanity lives in fully restored relationship with God and the rest of creation. This is where we’re headed. That ending is inevitable. In the meantime, while we’re still in Act 5, what is our responsibility towards moving us to that grand finale?

Heaven has a lot of descriptions, but what will it be really? It’s a feast; a banquet. There is no more hurting or pain, but instead there is love and community. Will we be there? Will everyone be there? What is necessary for us to get to experience Heaven? Like any finale for a series, there are a lot of questions to be answered. The one thing we can say with confidence is: It will all be set right. What started Good will end Good.

6/11 - 6/12/2022 (June 11 and 12) | The Church Without Borders

Last week, the church leaders came to an understanding on how the Christian way of life was applicable for both Jews and Gentiles. The timing was perfect because the church was rapidly expanding into different nations and regions. What the early church leaders quickly realized was the universal nature of Jesus’s message of grace and redemption. Paul began to plant church communities in different cities, appealing to the culture and language of that group. (e.g. When Paul was writing to a culture that venerated military service, he used military analogy and language.)

This same universality of the Church continues to exist today. The church is rapidly expanding in different countries such as those in Africa and Asia. Yet it is also growing in areas around the US. Every time we engage with other stories, backgrounds, and cultures, we have the opportunity to see God in a deeper and more meaningful way. Paul discusses God from several different perspectives in his Epistles, and as a result, the language used around God reflects the people he was writing to. None of this contradicts itself, and in every letter, we see a fuller picture of God.

6/4 - 6/5/2022 (June 4 and 5) | Revelation

John of Patmos, or John the Revelator, offers us the final piece of scripture to round out the bible. The book of Revelation has long been the most misunderstood aspect of scripture since its inception. It is and apocalyptic writing that was customary at the time. Apocalyptic in this context is not world ending destruction however, but instead it is a great unveiling of previously unknown information. In this case, it is full of fantastical imagery, wild prophecy, and laced through it all is the image of Christ and his final redemption of the world.

Much like every other book of the Bible, the words in these pages are historical, contextual, and relevant to our daily lives. The imagery of the beasts in Revelation are specific references to worldly people, groups, and events happening to the early church when this was written. WYet we can find meaning in those images for our lives as well. The questions for us to ponder in this book is why it was written, what were all these confusing symbols representing, and what do they mean for us today. More importantly, how do we understand the importance of revelation today? What is the difference between the words of these pages, and the words of the preachers of St. Andrew? Or any other church leader for that matter? Can we have revelation, and if so, how do we recognize it?

 

5/28 - 5/29/2022 (May 28 and 29) | Revelation

As the church moved to welcome in both Jew and Gentile, a natural division remained. This division spawned many questions as to what was expected of the Gentiles in order to claim their faith fully. The Jews had served as a fraternity or sorority of sorts, having passed down traditions and culture for generations. Their natural question was obviously, “Should these new members not do what we had to do?”

Gathering for a Council in Acts, Peter and Paul help lead a debate between whether new Gentile believers must be circumcised to be saved. While this was a specific question of tradition, how it was settled would set the precedent on how every debate about Christian practices would be settled. The church ultimately decided that circumcision was not necessary because the Gentiles were saved by grace through faith. It was also determined that there was specific things which are necessary in the faith, such as not worshipping other idols. To this day, we must see what are the things that we ought to do as a result of having faith, and what are the things which we can do but are not essential for our faith to flourish.

5/21 - 5/22/2022 (May 21 and 22) | The First of Many

The early Christian church was a church of Jewish faithful. Jesus was Jewish; the disciples were Jewish; the listeners were Jewish. The question in front of them was if the good news of Jesus’s resurrection was available to people who didn’t look like them or have upbringings like them.

Last week we started hearing how Paul’s story is seen with the individual; with us. God uses us even with our imperfect pasts. This week we move from us to the people around us. In the story of Cornelius, we see the first Gentile convert he and his family to be servants of Jesus. Peter himself is initially skeptical that Cornelius can be a part of the faith. It takes a vision from God for him to see what the future kingdom will be, and the coming together of all different kinds of people to the Christian faith. The Church is going to grow and expand with more people over time. They have received the Holy Spirit just like us.

5/14 - 5/15/2022 (May 14 and 15) | The Tales of Saul and Paul

The church could not stay a church of just the original 11 disciples forever. They understood this, as they brought new disciples, and anointed the position of deacons, to help with the work. God would help this process of expansion as well by enlisting the help of a man named Saul who was an ardent persecutor of followers of The Way. God opened Saul’s eyes, ordained him to spread the Gospel message, and thus began one of the most significant ministries of the past 2000 years.

We think of Paul as this upstanding Christian leader, but in his time and life, he spent every day working to move beyond his former deeds. He was not trusted by the other Christian leaders, nor was trusted by other followers. Yet, he persevered, always setting his eyes on the grace of God, and allowed his new life to not erase his past but use it to preach God’s goodness. Our pasts are real, and they actually make our present lives in Christ that much more meaningful.

All Series

More Than Conquerors
5/14 - 6/19/2022
In the early first century, culturally speaking, everything was positioned around the idea that a nation ought to expand and conquer to accumulate power and influence. In this way, the movement that began with Jesus was positioned well to be a religion that was focused on going out in the world, spreading its message to new nations, and converting others to this system of beliefs. The world was primed for a religious movement that would respond to the great commission, and in effect, go forth and conquer. Yet, the church was not about conquering. It did not hope to extinguish and assimilate every other person and culture. Instead, the early church grew on the basis that it had the ability to universally speak to the human condition of brokenness and offer hope and promise in the wake of that very condition. The church would be more than the conquerors. Everyone was coming to believe in the promise of God. The Gospel reached into different cultures, differently idioms and languages altogether. In this message, they preached and believed that Jesus would return again, and would return again sooner rather than later. Nobody could have fathomed the idea that 2000 years into the future, we would still be waiting on this return. They were teaching each other lessons and lifting each other up in the hopes that they would be alive to see the grand return. However, those lessons taught have a practicality that transcends any time period. In growing over this time, the church moved beyond the disciples. What was once an effort of individuals and leaders who had all had direct connections to, and conversations with, the risen Lord now transitioned to a movement of different ages, nations, and races of converted believers who had simply heard the Good News of the Gospel. They would lean on their own spiritual experiences of the divine rather than tangible interactions with God Incarnate. What will leadership look like in this new Church? Who can be a part of this faith movement? What will be required to participate? Most importantly, how do those messages speak to us today?
Appeared
4/23 - 5/8/2022
Easter has come, Christ has been resurrected. We have enjoyed the big celebrations, the Easter egg hunts, and the family meals, but we forget that there was more than an empty tomb after Christ was resurrected. There were more visits than the brief encounter of the women in the garden. A fully resurrected Christ is a free Christ. Jesus could have gone anywhere and done anything after the resurrection, and yet he chose to search for the disciples. Jesus sought out the ones who abandoned and failed him more than anyone else. The ones who swore loyalty disappeared. The ones who followed in his footsteps for three years turned their backs on the suffering Savior. The ones who pledged to help transform the world abandoned the mission in fear and shame. Yet the story of the cross and resurrection is true for each of us through the power of God’s grace: we are more than our worst moments. The worst thing is never the last thing. What might those disciples have been feeling after the cross? Can you imagine the deep silence between them? The shared knowledge of their failures? The unrelenting question: “What now?” Brene Brown defines shame as “an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.” It is not hard to imagine the deep shame of these disciples, one that each of them knew intimately and yet did not want to name. Shame assigns identity based on our worst moments. It thrives on secrecy. It is “the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal we’ve not lived up to, or a goal we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection” (Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart, 137). We see over and over again in the Gospels and Acts scenes of redemption and healing through God’s grace. Jesus could have chosen to abandon the ones who left him at the cross, who pretended they did not even know him, to start from scratch with better disciples. Yet in God’s infinite grace and unrelenting love, the disciples were chosen for connection, relationship, and entrusted with the mission of Christ. Jesus confronts their failures head on. This is the Christian story: our deepest shame is redeemed and we are transformed into world-changing disciples