Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org


November 2:

Call:       Acts 15: 1-2
Read:   Romans 14: 7-10
Text:       Acts 15: 3-21;  Galatians 2: 1-2, 6-10
Close:  Acts 15: 22-29

**[Not using Galatians scripture]   [Prayer]

Words intrigue me.  For example, our message is a one word title:

However, if we change just one letter in the word
    By deleting the "S" and replacing it with a "V"
we get a very different word:   REVOLUTION.

Then if we take our new word
    And change just two letters
        By deleting the first "O" and the "U"
        and replacing them with an "E" and an "A"
We get a word very different from
both of its predecessors in our exercise
    this time we get:       REVELATION

Intriguingly, (after all, I told you that words intrigue me)
These three seemingly very different words
all have a part to play
in our look at this morning's scriptures.

For in essence there was - as is the case throughout Acts -
    A revolution going on in Palestine
        A spiritual and theological revolution;
        A structural and interpersonal revolution
**  [pause] **

What do you think of when you hear the word "revolution?"
    I think of words that normally precede "Revolution."
        Words like "American," "French," and "Russian."
        Also words like "Industrial" or "Digital"

In the case of the former
we think of guns, bloodshed and guillotines
In the case of the latter
    We think of radical changes in the way we live
        Particularly through the economic and labor aspects of our lives.

The revolution in our scriptures
    as we have seen over the past nine weeks,
has been coming in wave after wave of radical change

However, this radical change
    Was not primarily in the economic or labor aspects of our lives - but rather in spiritual, theological, and interpersonal aspects
And while it did result in strongly different opinions
        - A necessity in revolutions -
And it did involve some acts of violence
It did not reach the point of guns, military type bloodshed, or guillotines - or their first century counterparts

And it didn't result in them
    Because by prayerful talking and listening
    A resolution was reached.

And that resolution resulted in part because of revelations
    To Peter and Paul   and
    To the church at Antioch and the Apostles in Jerusalem

And in turn that resolution was itself a revelation
to those of us in the church today
    Who could save a lot of grumbling, complaining, self pity,
            And wasted energy
        If we would simply look at the early church
        And see how the Christian revolution was conducted
            And differences resolved

The revolution began with the life, death, and resurrection
    Of Jesus of Nazareth.

But it became more widespread after his ascension.
    When he charged us to do his work in this world
And after Pentecost
When in dramatic fashion,
    The Holy Spirit came upon and empowered his followers.

On that day his followers multiplied
    Going from 120 to over 3,000

On that day in Jerusalem, the church was born.

The disciples who had known him before his ascension
Were transformed into apostles.
going from being his students
to being his representatives and envoys.
    And     being expected to be witnesses to and make disciples of
        Other people.

Christ's followers continued to think of themselves as Jews
    But the Jewish leadership and elements within that faith
        Thought they were blasphemous
        And persecuted them.

First by arresting their leaders
    Whipping them and demanding that they stop doing things in the name of Jesus.

Then by stoning Stephen to death
    And beginning a radical and widespread persecution
    Which in turn caused most of the followers to scatter through areas outside the city
        In other parts of Judea and in Samaria.

Then in an event nearly as dramatic as Pentecost,
    Their chief persecutor was struck blind as he hurried to Damascus to arrest those in the church
    And astonishingly   he was called by Christ
to be the one to take the good news even farther away
to places miles away
from where Christ lived, died, and was resurrected.

Things were changing fast.

The change continued
as he and Barnabas took a 1000 mile round trip journey
    Fulfilling that call

They had begun by preaching in the synagogues
  Trying to get across to the Jewish worshippers the news
that Jesus was the messiah or deliverer and son of God
And that he was the embodiment of God's promises
fulfilling both the prophets and the law.

This was revolutionary theology
    But when rejected by the Jewish leadership
they turned their focus to taking the good news to the Gentiles
    This    was even more revolutionary.

Change is complicated and challenging.

In this case, the church itself began to divide over whether
    The gentiles who had clearly received the Holy Spirit
        Needed to be circumcised in order to be saved
    And whether they needed to obey Jewish dietary laws

Paul and Barnabas were convinced that neither was necessary
    Believing that the Holy Spirit was sufficient in and of itself?

The church at Antioch, inspired by the HS, sent Paul and Barnabas
    To discuss this with the apostles in Jerusalem.

Luke tells us about this discussion and about what happened on the way to it.       [chapter 15, verses 3-21.]

Picture the Pharisees
    They are people determined to obey every jot and tittle of the law
    They believe that they are doing this on behalf of the entire community.

With this background
They can only shake their heads in amazement
"How in the world" they wonder, "can anyone think that you can be saved when you do not meet the requirements of the law?"

Not only does their understanding rest on the law given to Moses
    But they also know that circumcision is a practice
        Since before the law
        Since Abraham.

They cannot get it through their heads
    That circumcision was simply a sign of the covenant
        And not the covenant itself.
Just as the wedding ring is a sign of the marriage
    But not the marriage itself.

Peter spoke out, sharing from his experience and concluding with,
"... we believe that we and they are saved in the same way
        by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ."

"We believe" that all of us - whether Jew or Gentile -
are all saved in the same way
not by circumcision     or by dietary laws and practices
    BUT by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
        A grace given - not earned

And James, who had become the leader in Jerusalem declared
    "Therefore, I conclude that we shouldn't create problems for Gentiles who turn to God."
        He had to be thinking, "God knows what God's doing."
            (Something you and I sometimes forget)

While I suspect that there were still some Pharisees who went to their graves mumbling and grumbling
    About the idiocy of the decision.
And while I know there were others who
    Still tried to teach and impose the law on Gentile believers
The issue had been resolved
    by a conversation where each listened to the other.

The resolution stuck    and so the revolution continued
The resolution stuck    and so remains a revelation to us even today.

A revelation that God knows what God is doing
A revelation that you and I need to talk and we need to listen
    To God and to each other.
A revelation with a history of producing resolutions
A revelation that our salvation comes through the grace of JC.