Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

04/15/12 Sermon

Acts 4:32-35

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our strength and our Redeemer, Amen

I heard in the news on Saturday that JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books is working on a new book that will be released in September. (The Casual Vacancy)
And a lot of the critics have been wondering what kind of an encore this book will be after the enormous success of the Potter series.

Between the books and the blockbuster movies and all the merchandise the Harry Potter brand is worth more than 15 billion dollars.

So after so much success and so much celebration of these books and the movies, how do you follow that up? What kind of encore could live up to so much triumph?

You know in a way that’s where we can find ourselves today in the life of the church.
Last week we sang alleluias in the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. We had over a 100 people in the congregation.
But today, on the 1st Sunday after Easter there can be a feeling of let down. We wonder what’s next? What’s the encore?
Well in a way, that was the same kind of experience the early disciples felt after the resurrection. After the news that Jesus was risen, they were in hiding and living in fear, wondering what’s next?
Then of course they encountered the risen Christ for themselves. Thomas put his hands in the nail scarred hands. Two followers encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

And Jesus appeared to them on the Sea of Galilee, eating with them and telling Peter to go and feed his sheep.

After the day of resurrection, they experienced Jesus’ resurrection.
And that’s a reminder to us that Easter is more than an event we celebrate once a year and move on. Easter is not just a day on the calendar.
For Christians the resurrection is a living thing; it is a living power and a newness of life.
On Easter Sunday we preach that in the resurrection there is power over sin and death.
We preach the resurrection power of assurance and hope; of salvation and forgiveness; of gratitude and love and of change and transformation.
And today as we move forward from the resurrection we are continuing to focus on the living power of the resurrection.
Because that’s the encore of Easter--- the power of resurrection in our daily lives………

Now in our lectionary scripture today, Luke, the author of Acts, is pointing to 2 other dramatic effects of resurrection power that happened in the birth of the early church.

And the first effect we see in this scripture is a power of unity despite diversity.
In the book of Acts we read that there were people of different ethnic groups who spoke different languages, who came from different belief systems and yet they all came together and were united in one heart and one mind, sharing everything they owned.

The resurrection power of the Holy Spirit breathed in a power of unity that bound these people together. They were united as one in love for each other and united in purpose.

Now that is an encore of Easter power that we desperately need to receive and embrace today.
We live in a time where there is such a lack of unity in churches. We are separated and argue over denominational issues, theological issues, political issues and ethical issues.

And while these things can cause conflict and disunity in the church, I think there is a much more subtle kind of disunity that’s having an even more harmful affect in our churches today.

In a best selling book on leadership titled The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, author Patrick Lencionis describes five unity destroyers that affect any kind of organization along with churches.
1)           Absence of trust:

This absence of trust comes about because of a church’s unwillingness to be vulnerable and genuinely open up with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses.

There is no vulnerability with one another. And when you don’t have that, there can be no trust and therefore no unity. Mistrust separates.
But we see in our scripture that these early Christians had received a power that gave them a willingness to be vulnerable and open with one another.

Resurrection power is about the cross and our willingness to confess our weakness and vulnerability.

These early Christians shared their needs with each other openly and as result they were unified in trust.

2)           The second destroyer of unity is Fear of conflict:

Nobody likes conflict. But if you don’t have conflict, then things just go on unresolved which means there can be no unity. If you sweep it under the rug you will never have unity. 

But the important thing is to have conflict but do so with a desire for unity.

The early Christians had conflicts over many things but community was more important. They had been given a power of unity in their common bond as sinners saved by Christ with the purpose to spread the good news to others.
Without embracing this power of unity and deal with problems head on, they would have never had an affect on the world. For unity to prevail problems have to be addressed.


3) The third destroyer of unity according to Lencionis is a lack of commitment:

When there is no buy in and commitment to what you are trying to do as a congregation, there is no unity.

If only a handful of people are committed then there can be no genuine unity and no real affect as a church.

But these early Christians, about 5000 to begin with, were unified in their commitment and it showed.

It showed in their giving and it showed in their witness. Because they were embraced the power of unity they were committed together to a common mission, a common goal and it made a powerful impact on the world.

4) Now the 4th destroyer of unity is the avoidance of accountability:

This connects with the lack of commitment. You see without commitment to a clearly defined set of goals or vision, the congregation won’t call out others whose actions and behaviors are counterproductive for the team.

Without accountability to what you’re trying to do there is no unity.
The early Christians held each other accountable. They were unified in a practice of generous sharing, in behavior and in mission.

5) Finally the last destroyer of unity according to Lencionis is an Inattention to results:

He says when we don’t examine how we’re doing and celebrate or correct the issues then everyone is just doing their own thing.

As a result, goals are never achieved and there is no unity of working together.

But the early Christians had a unity to share and to worship and celebrate with one another.
As they moved past the resurrection, they moved forward with the power of the resurrection and it clearly showed in their unity.
Now as a church we are called to reflect on how we’re doing with our unity. Do we trust one another, willing to really be open and vulnerable?

Are we dealing with conflict and problem issues or are we sweeping them under the rug?

Are we committed to the vision and mission of the church or are we just content letting others do the work for us?
Are we holding each other accountable to the life of being a Christian?
And are we paying attention to the results of what we’re trying to do?

For us to be unified as the early church, making a difference in the kingdom of God, we need to open our hearts and receive the power of unity we have in the resurrection.

We need to embrace it, practice it and live it out……………………………………………………
Now along with the unity, the other effect of resurrection power that we see in this scripture is the early church’s power of purpose.
When we reflect on the early church and how they were unified, we see that they were unified in a purpose.
That purpose was seen in how they sold possessions and brought the money to help those in need.
Their purpose was powered from the resurrected Christ who sent the Holy Spirit to empower them to go out into the marketplace to be relevant in people’s lives.
The early church grew because they were involved in people’s lives, not hidden behind walls in a church building.
In fact if you read the book of Acts and count the number of miracles that took place in people’s lives you’ll see that 39 of the 40 miracles happened out in the marketplace.
These early Christians had received a power of purpose. They were out doing good deeds in the lives of their neighbors not to feel good about themselves but rather with the purpose of sharing the Good News.

Now that’s something we have to be unified in focusing in on as well.

We are called to receive the power of purpose by being intentional instruments to assist in what God is up to in the world of our daily lives.
We spoke last week of how Jesus is out in front of us. He was sent ahead of us.
The purpose we’ve been given is to go out into the world where God is already working and be instruments in God’s plan to redeem the world.

And we go out into the world by being like the early Christians who were sharing their time and talents and treasures.

You know, the time we live in today is VERY EERILY similar to the early church and the culture back then.
It was a culture that had many different religions and diversity and people were seeking spirituality.
And when the Christians came about with a faith that was about helping the whole person: emotionally, spiritually and physically----- there was an explosion of converts to the faith.
Now today you and I live in what is known as a postmodern world. People are interested in spirituality (COEXIST bumper stickers) but they are suspicious of Christianity.
Mainly because of the very conservative Christians who are combative with their witness.

But what we have to do today is embrace the power of purpose and go to the world where God is at work and give ourselves to others.

Like the early Christians we need to share our time and talents and resources.

If we are going to introduce Christ to others it has to be with our actions and our identity not with combative words.

Today we have a sign-up sheet in the front and the back of the church today for Help Your Community Day.

This is a way for us to embrace our unity and also live out our purpose of sharing the Good News to others.

I hope every person here today will sign-up. Even if you can’t be here that day or you are physically unable to help, you can still pray for those who can and for those we are going to serve.
This is a way of receiving the power of unity and the power of purpose.
In closing this morning, as we move forward from last Easter Sunday, we’re being asked what’s next?
What’s the encore?
Well the encore is an encore of power. Power from the resurrection and power from the Holy Spirit.
Today, let us seek to be unified as a congregation with a unified purpose in sharing the love of Christ with our time and talents and gifts.

As Easter people, God has a story out in front of us. It’s His story that he calls us to join in.

Let us be instruments of the next great revival unified together by his power and his love.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen