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WELCOME to our guest preacher, Rev. Dr. Lyle VanderBroek, Retired Professor of New Testament at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. Lyle is a long-standing “friend of Westminster” frequently sharing his gifts of preaching and teaching. His most recent book is The Life of Paul for Today, published by Westminster/John Knox Press.
First Lesson: Acts 1:6-14 (NRSV)
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.10While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers
Second Lesson: 1 Peter 2:2-10 (NRSV)
2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture:
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner’,
8and ‘A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
- Paul talks about God in Athens
- Today's Scripture: Acts 17:15-34
- What can WE say about God in our time and place?
- God is real
- Jesus matters
- There is "a way" of life that is sustainable
Scripture: Acts 17:15-34 (CEB)
15 Those who escorted Paul led him as far as Athens, then returned with instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible.
16 While Paul waited for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to find that the city was flooded with idols.17 He began to interact with the Jews and Gentile God-worshippers in the synagogue. He also addressed whoever happened to be in the marketplace each day. 18 Certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers engaged him in discussion too. Some said, “What an amateur! What’s he trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods.” (They said this because he was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 19 They took him into custody and brought him to the council on Mars Hill. “What is this new teaching? Can we learn what you are talking about? 20 You’ve told us some strange things and we want to know what they mean.” (21 They said this because all Athenians as well as the foreigners who live in Athens used to spend their time doing nothing but talking about or listening to the newest thing.)
22 Paul stood up in the middle of the council on Mars Hill and said, “People of Athens, I see that you are very religious in every way. 23 As I was walking through town and carefully observing your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown God.’ What you worship as unknown, I now proclaim to you. 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in temples made with human hands. 25 Nor is God served by human hands, as though he needed something, since he is the one who gives life, breath, and everything else. 26 From one person God created every human nation to live on the whole earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands.27 God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us. 28 In God we live, move, and exist. As some of your own poets said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore, as God’s offspring, we have no need to imagine that the divine being is like a gold, silver, or stone image made by human skill and thought. 30 God overlooks ignorance of these things in times past, but now directs everyone everywhere to change their hearts and lives. 31 This is because God has set a day when he intends to judge the world justly by a man he has appointed. God has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection from the dead, some began to ridicule Paul. However, others said, “We’ll hear from you about this again.” 33 At that, Paul left the council. 34 Some people joined him and came to believe, including Dionysius, a member of the council on Mars Hill, a woman named Damaris, and several others.
Mary's "Journey" Begins
Luke 1:26-38 (Lizz Tyler)
Big dreams and high hopes -- Moms have them for us
Luke 1:46-55 (Becky Spurgeon)
Frustrating? Of course!
Still there when all is lost -- Michelangelo's Pieta
Luke 1:26-38Common English Bible (CEB)
26 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, 27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. 36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. 37 Nothing is impossible for God.”
38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:46-55 Common English Bible (CEB)
46 Mary said,
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
47 In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
48 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
49 because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
50 He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52 He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy,
55 just as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”
Who sets the boundaries?
Today's Scripture: Acts 8:26-39
Earnest inquirer meets faithful messenger
God's love will not be restrained!
Scripture: Acts 8:26-39 (Common English Bible)
26 An angel from the Lord spoke to Philip, “At noon, take the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) 27 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.) 28 He was reading the prophet Isaiah while sitting in his carriage. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Approach this carriage and stay with it.”
30 Running up to the carriage, Philip heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?”
31 The man replied, “Without someone to guide me, how could I?” Then he invited Philip to climb up and sit with him.32 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.
33 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?
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, about whom does the prophet say this? Is he talking about himself or someone else?” 35 Starting with that passage, Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him. 36 As they went down the road, they came to some water.
The eunuch said, “Look! Water! What would keep me from being baptized?” 38 He ordered that the carriage halt. Both Philip and the eunuch went down to the water, where Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Lord’s Spirit suddenly took Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.
It’s been three years since Westminster’s Worship Research Department, which as many of you suspect, is actually just me and a couple of old books, three years since the research department was reminded of the ancient Orthodox Christian tradition of the “Easter Joke.” On the day after Easter, Orthodox congregations would reassemble at their churches to tell jokes and funny stories — as a way of celebrating the BIG joke that God played on Satan on Easter morning.
Since we don’t gather on Mondays, yet still wanting to honor at least one ancient ecclesiastical tradition, I began modestly by including one Easter joke in my 2014 Easter sermon. This proved so popular that in 2015 I told two jokes and, then, in 2016, three. After worship last Easter, several of you suggested that I should just stop after the jokes, which I thought was pretty funny, but then I realized you weren’t joking.
Nevertheless, in continuing deference to the Orthodox Christian tradition, and at the risk of whatever remains of my respectability, I’ve decided to begin again with the Easter Joke, or two or three…
* I read this week about an all-church revival which was held in a small, rural Kentucky town, outside of Louisville. In the middle of the week-long revival, the town’s three ministers got together for a cup of coffee and to compare notes.
The Southern Baptist minister was effusive. “The Lord has blessed us mightily,” he said. “We had ten conversions last night.”
The Methodist minister, with equal enthusiasm said, “the Lord has blessed us, too. We received five new members.”
The Presbyterian minister, much more reserved, said, “God has been good to us, too. We lost fifteen of the worst members our church ever had.”
* The minister was preoccupied with thoughts of how he was going to ask the congregation to come up with more money than they were expecting for repairs to the church building. The minister became more anxious when he learned that the regular organist had called in sick and a sub was brought in at the last minute. The substitute wanted to know what to play and when to play.
So, the minister hurriedly gave the organist a copy of the bulletin, and said as they were entering the Sanctuary: “You’ll have to think of something to play after I’ve made my emergency appeal for additional funds.”
During the service, the minister took a deep breath and made his appeal, “Brothers and sisters, we are in great difficulty; the roof repairs cost twice as much as we expected and we need $15,000 more. Any of you who can pledge $500 or more, I invite you to stand up.”…… It was at that moment, that the substitute organist played “The Star Spangled Banner.”……And that is how the substitute organist became the regular organist!
* A Sunday school teacher decided to have a church etiquette reminder with her class just before she dismissed them to go to worship. She asked: “Why is it necessary for kids to be quiet in church?”
Annie replied, “Because people are sleeping.”
“The promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away” --Acts 2:39
WELCOME BACK to The Rev. Dr. Mark Achtemeier who served as Pastor at Westminster for the first five months of 2013. Mark juggles a busy schedule as theologian, author, teacher and consultant, speaking and leading gatherings around the USA. We are grateful for his continuing care for Westminster. Mark's "home" church is First Presbyterian, Dubuque, where his wife Katherine serves as Pastor.
First Lesson: Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV)
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.[b] 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth,[c] who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.[d] Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah[e]should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us[f] while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Second Lesson: Acts 2:14, 36-41 (NRSV)
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.
36Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ 38Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.