Life after the resurrection

Notes for sermon at St James Colwall for Easter 7 2016

The texts quoted below are from the New Living Translation (NLT) of the Bible. The speaker's notes on the texts are Interspersed.

John 17:20-26 - Jesus speaking the night before he died:

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me."

On this critical night, when Jesus would have only prayed the most important of prayers, he prays that we should be one. He knew this would be where the enemy would successfully damage the church, and how much that is true. Our unity and love is our most powerful evangelistic weapon, eg St Mark’s Kennington love between a diverse group of Christ’s body – great witness ‘Whatever you have got I want it’.

St Mark's church Kennington, is opposite the Oval tube station. It was a wreck after the war and 4 faithful ladies prayed that the Lord would bring a leader with vision, the necessary funds and then the congregation to bring it back to life. He answered. When we were there the congregation spoke about 30 different languages and represented even more countries. Some were titled and wealthy, some were tramps, some were students, some had small children but felt that God called them to move to this undesirable part of London nonetheless. It was front line ministry, one emergency after another. We had violence, robbery, arson, suicide, a bomb scare; drug addicts, schizophrenics, alcoholics, the mentally ill, the homeless and every other condition known to man. We prayed all the time because we had no choice but to trust God and he never let us down. In our total dependence we saw him work in power. He gave us such love for each other it overcame any desire to be critical and we recognized that he accepted each of us as we are and so we sought to do the same. After worship on a Sunday, week after week, visitors would come up to us and say 'Whatever it is that you've got, I want it'. Our love and acceptance were the most evangelistic thing I have encountered. As Jesus said 'By this shall all men know that the Father sent the Son, by your love for each other.

22 “… May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. …"

Acts 16:16-34 - Paul and Silas in Prison

16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. 17  She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”

God uses the most unlikely people; no excuse for us then!

18 This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.

Why hadn’t Paul cast the demon out before this? Why did he have to be driven to exasperation and what was wrong with having this girl telling people to turn to Jesus? Sometimes we only risk doing the will of Jesus when we have little choice.

19 Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. 20 “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials. 21 “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.”

Paul remembered this and came back to it later when he tells them that he is a Roman citizen and then have treated him illegally. It is always good to talk to people starting with where they are.

22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.

Jesus promised as much to his disciples, he never said it would be easy to follow him. On the contrary he said his followers would be arrested and imprisoned and killed for their faith; and their families would turn against them. Sometimes we hear Christians speaking as if God should be giving them an easy life because they believe in him, but his promise was to the contrary. When we make our lifelong vows to follow Jesus we sign up to trust him no matter what it costs. As at this afternoon’s confirmation. Can we renew our vows today with that in mind.

However, after severe beating God does miraculously brings Paul and Silas out of imprisonment, but in a way that will bring glory to him and see new people brought into the kingdom.

25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.

Even in this dire situation Paul and Silas are praising God, and they are not doing it silently either, but aloud so that all the others can hear. They weren’t sitting there saying our God has let us down. This is awful.

26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 27  The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28  But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer would have been held accountable for the escape of prisoners and his life would have been forfeited, so he decided to pre-empt that action and commit suicide.

29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

He immediately recognises something different and special about Paul and Silas and the message they preach about the God that they serve. Do people we meet immediately recognise this in you and me?

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. 33 Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. 34 He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.

Through their suffering God works mightily. Do we trust him in adversity to work mightily through us? The God Paul and Silas knew is the same God we trust; he does not change.

Revelation 22:12-14, 16–17, 20–21

20 He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen!
Come, Lord Jesus!
21 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.