Sunday 6th May – 9am Worship
Sermon Series: Acts / Pentecost
Theme: Love In Action
Bible Readings: John 15:9-17
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
As we have already mentioned, next week is Pentecost (reminder … wear something red) and we are preparing for celebrating this event by looking at the early church as found in the book of Acts. BUT – my bible reading wasn’t from the book of Acts – but rather it is from the Gospel of John. Don’t worry … I will come back to the book of Acts, but I just want to start with this reading.
What was the reading about? (Come on … we only just heard it). If I was going to sum up this reading in one word, what would it be? LOVE. John mentions the word love 9 times in this bible reading … The Father loves Jesus, Jesus loves us, we are to remain in Jesus love. A new commandment is … Love one another as Jesus loves us. Love each other.
Actually, Jesus speaks a lot about love. Over 30 references in John, 30 references in the other gospels – 11 times Jesus tells us to love one another. Jesus really wants us to be loving.
So we get to the gospel of Acts – the early church continuing the ministry of Jesus and sharing his teaching with the world. Have a guess how many times the word love is mentioned in the book of Acts? 20? 40? 100?
Who knows the answer? Zero. None. Not once. No love, loved, loving … no Greek word that can be interpreted as love. Nothing. There is over 200 references to love from Romans to Revelation but Acts – 0. The writer Luke uses the word love 19 times in his gospel … so why the absence of this great word in Luke’s sequel to Theophilus—the Book of Acts?
It is quite striking – especially from our perspective. The current church theology is love-drenched. We emphasise love. In our churches vision we said part of our churches foundation is this idea that we are to love God and love others. If you listen to our worship songs – they are full of the word love. When we are sharing the gospel with another person, our starting point is LOVE. And yet, in the Book of Acts – the story of the early church – doesn’t mention the word at all.
What is going on here?
The biblical scholars give a simple answer to this conundrum – a simple answer but I actually think it is deeply profound when we begin to unpack it.
They say that the answer is in the name of the book. The book is not called the WORDS of the apostles but the ACTS of the apostles. They might not have said the word LOVE anywhere, but love could be clearly seen in their actions.
The apostles in acts did not speak of love … they showed it. And I am going to show you 10 different examples of this. Actually … I am going to get you to help me find 10 different examples of this.
[Hand out handout]
Remember last week we affirmed that we are all people of God and God can speak through all of us. We’ll today we are going to put that into practice. On the sheet that is going around we have 10 different bible readings, each a story about a person or group of people in the early church.
And while none of these stories ever mention the word LOVE, I am asking the question of how the people in these stories SHOWED LOVE.
What we are going to do is give you 5 minutes, and either by yourself or with a few people around you … have a read through 2 or 3 of these examples and see if you can work out how love is shown. You won’t have time to do them all, but you will probably get to do 2 or 3. And then in 5 minutes we will see if we can learn from each other and share what we have discovered.
And just to make sure that we cover all of the readings …
Could people around here start with 1,2 or 3
Up the back corner 3,4,5
Over there, 6,7,8
And the front section 8,9,10
If you get more done – great … but if you sort of start with that. Let’s see how we go. Go!
1. Acts 2:44-45 & Acts 4:32-35
How did the believers show love?
LOVE Sharing with those in need, making sure that no-one is in need … Extravagant Generosity
2. Acts 9:10-19
How did Ananias show love?
LOVE Risk Taking Service. Obedience / Trust.
… “No greater love has this …”
3. Acts 9:36-43
How did Peter, Dorcas, the widows etc show love
LOVE doing good, helping the poor,
… being compassionate, responding to needs
4. Acts 10:27-28,34-35, 44-47 (or all of Acts 10 if you want)
How did Peter show Love?
Love accepting those who are different to us.
… Love is having an open mind. (Acts 11)
5. Acts 12:1-5,12 (or read the whole story Acts 12:1-17)
How did the church show love?
LOVE Gathering to pray for those in desperate situations
6. Acts 15:36-51
How did Barnabas (and Paul) show love?
LOVE giving a second chance. Learning how to live with each other in the midst of disagreement.
7. Acts 16:13-15 (25-34)
How did Lydia show love
LOVE Hospitality, care, compassion
8. Acts 17:16-17,22-23
How did Paul show love?
LOVE Greatly distressed at their spiritual state. Spurred on to respond. Love is sharing the good news of Jesus
9. Acts 18:24-28
How did Priscilla and Aquila show love?
… mentoring Apollos to serve God more effectively
10. Acts 20:36-37 (or the whole story from Acts 20:17-37)
How did the church in Ephesus show love?
LOVE Deep friendship
Interesting isn’t it. The word love might not have been mentioned but it was certainly expressed in their actions.
For the early church, Love was a Verb, not noun.
Their faith was not to speak of love, but to show it.
The enacted out the words of 1 John 4:19, “We love because God first loved us.”
I guess that challenge is for us … how do we show love in our actions – love for God, love for each other? Would people know that we are disciples of Jesus because of the way that we love?
Two quick things to finish with. The book of Acts might not use the word love but they did you three different words to describe the early church.
• Kerygma (Ker-rig-ma) – a community who proclaimed the good news of Jesus.
• Diakonia (di-ak-o-nea) – a community who served each other and their community in the name of Jesus.
• Kiononia (Coin-no-nea) – a grace-filled fellowship where people genuinely care for and love one another
This should be our goal too – we should strive to do our best in these three areas. To be a church were the good news is proclaimed, where people care for and love one another and who serve each other and our community in the name of Jesus.
And lastly, I want to quote from another early piece of writing, but not out of the bible. It is out of a written document which has been found by historians – first written in rhe days of the early church by a Roman soldier named Aristedes (Ar-rist-deez). He was asked to report to Emperor Hadrian on the people called Christians.
This was his report:
“Christian love one another. They never fail to help widows and orphans. If a person has something, they give it freely to the one that has nothing. If they see a stranger, Christians take him home and treat him like a real brother. If someone is poor and there isn’t enough food to go around, they fast several days to give him the food he needs. This is really a new kind of person. There is something divine in them.”
May people today in our local community
say that about us.