Easter 3 – April 18, 2021

“The Acts of US – Times of Refreshing” – Acts 3:11-21


Introduction: Context (X 2)

As is often the case, I want to start with a little bit of context for what God wants you to hear today. And sometimes – like today – I need to give you two bits of context.

The first context is the Easter season sermon series that I introduced last Sunday. I am going to be addressing the Bible readings taken from the book of Acts, the second volume of Luke that focuses on the continuing acts and words of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit carried out by the apostles. So, I mentioned last week that the book could properly be titled: “The Continuing Words and Deeds of Jesus by His Spirit through his Apostles.” Since this sacred writing doesn’t come to a crisp ending, that implies that the words and deeds of Jesus continue through His followers, even today… through US.

The second context is necessary because it seems like our reading starts in the middle of a story, and it does. It began, “While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them…” That makes us ask at least two questions in order to understand. The first question is, “Who clung to Peter and John?” The second question is, “Why did he cling to them?” and maybe along with that “What were the people astounded about?” Those two questions basically have the same answer.

The story begins in Acts 3 verse 1. Peter and John went to the temple to pray. They encountered a man lame from birth being carried into the temple area to beg – that’s what alms are… the coins that generous people gave to support him in his obvious poverty, like the coins that we may give to a grubby, untidy man or woman walking past cars at a red light with a cardboard sign that says, “Homeless and hungry.” Peter said they didn’t have any silver or gold coins to give, but they had something better. Then, with authority, he said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” The man got up, and went into the temple proper – walking, and leaping and praising God. That’s who clung to Peter and John – the former lame man. Why did he cling to them? Well, he may have been a little bit wobbly on his legs and feet… remember he had been lame FROM BIRTH… he had never walked before. Or perhaps he clung to them out of gratitude for the healing. And of course, that’s what the common people around the temple were astounded about – they had seen this man begging at the temple before, and had maybe given up their loonies and toonies from time to time, but now he was walking!! Amazing!! Astounding!! Unbelievable!! So that’s the context to what we read today.


1. Peter’s sermon # 2

What we read was Jesus’ continuing words by His Holy Spirit through Peter – his sermon # 2 in the book of Acts. Sermon # 1 was in chapter 2, on the day that the Holy Spirit was sent. There, Peter challenged those present with their part in Jesus’ crucifixion. “With the help of wicked men, you put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead…” He would go on to say, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Peter’s message would cut the people right to their hearts and they would ask Peter what they should do in response. Peter called them to repent and to be baptized, and 3,000 people accepted his message and were added to the number of believers.

Sermon # 2 is not so much different. “You delivered God’s servant, Jesus, over to Pilate, and asked for a murderer to be released. You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead. And we are witnesses of that.” Then Peter needed to address the relevant context, and to give all the credit to Jesus: “It is His name, faith in His name, that has made this lame man strong and given him perfect health, complete healing.” What was remarkable about Peter’s message is how Christ-centered it was. He didn’t dwell on the healed crippled man, nor did he take personal credit for himself and John as healers or even agents of healing. He pointed to the risen Christ and faith in His name as the source of that complete healing. Peter used a cluster of significant titles to refer to Jesus in his brief message: Jesus Christ of Nazareth, God’s servant, the Holy and Righteous One, the Author of life, the prophet foretold by Moses, and then later, as he was defending himself against the religious leaders, he referred to Jesus as the cornerstone of faith. These titles speak of the uniqueness of the name of Jesus and explain its healing and saving power.

Peter didn’t wait for the people to ask how they should respond. He laid it out for them just as he had in his first sermon: “I know that you acted in ignorance… Repent therefore… that your sins may be blotted out, and that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you.” Later, in chapter 4, we read that “many of those who heard the word believed and the number of men who believed came to about five thousand.”

We do know that the call to repent never loses its relevance, for we all sin, every day – by what we do, by what we fail to do. Sometimes, like the people of Jerusalem we sin in ignorance. We sin against God, ignoring Him in our daily living. We sin against other people, ignoring their needs. Other times we sin quite intentionally, knowing that something is wrong, but doing it anyway. So, yes, every day we, too, need to turn to God in repentance.


2. Blessings from repentance – Sins blotted out

There are three blessings that spring from the repentance of the people, from your own repentance. The first is that your sins may be blotted out. The Greek word – exaleipho – means to wash off or erase. The same word is used in Revelation 7 to say that God will exaleipho, wipe away, every tear from our eyes. The same word is used in Revelation 3 to say that Jesus will never exaleipho, blot out, the names of His faithful servants from the book of life. Bible commentator William Barclay explains that ancient writing was done on papyrus – a form of paper made from the stem of a water plant. The ink that was used had no acid in it so it did not bite into the papyrus as modern inks do. It simply lay on top of the sheet of papyrus. If you wanted to erase it, you could just take a wet sponge and wipe it away, as if it had never been there in the first place. That’s what God does with your sins. Because of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, God wipes the slate of YOUR life clean. He forgives your sins, and you can’t see them anymore. In fact, HE can’t see them anymore! That is the first blessing that springs from genuine repentance.


3. Blessings from repentance – Times of Refreshing

As we consider the Acts of US based on this sermon of Peter, I want to especially talk about the second blessing – what Peter called “times of refreshing.” The Greek compound word is made up of two words. The second word has the sense of to cool off, to relieve, to revive. Think of a warm summer day spent at the beach throwing a frisbee or playing beach volleyball. Then you’re all done and you plop down in a lawn chair or at a picnic table and pop open your favourite bottle of… water… OK, OK, your favourite bottle of beer. It’s refreshing, isn’t it? It cools you off and revives you. The first word ana means anew, again, or from above. That means, as we consider the impact of our genuine repentance over our sins, it is refreshing, spiritually reviving – and that renewal comes from above, from God, through the crucified and risen Jesus, because He has truly exaleiphoed your sin, blotted them out fully and completely and finally. That’s refreshing to realize and to know.

There are other aspects of our faith-walk with God that can bring us that spiritual refreshment. We don’t want to be like the little boy who fell out of his bed one night. His mom came running over and asked what happened. The boy said, “I don’t know. I guess I stayed too close to where I got in to bed.”

We don’t want that to happen to our faith. We don’t want to stay where we got in and never move, never grow. Picture where you were with God a year ago, when Covid hit. Have you stayed right there? Has your faith drifted and wandered, and maybe even faded away to some extent? Or has this year of unwanted isolation been an opportunity for growth and faith stretching and maturity? How does your prayer life compare with a year ago? What about your time in God’s Word? Think about your giving, your financial stewardship… where is that? And your refreshment because of time spent with brothers and sisters in Christ?  Let’s talk about each of those things.

   a. Prayer

First, prayer… There are various Bible verses that lead us into prayer. One of them is Colossians 4:2 – “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” Jesus, Himself, was a model for prayer, for we hear about several occasions where He went to a lonely place to pray. Prayer can be spiritually refreshing, but not if we limit our prayer life to thinking about it, preparing for it, reading about it, or attending a lecture about it. God invites us to actually pray. He doesn’t care so much about our posture, whether we sit or lie down, kneel or stand. He doesn’t care so much about our using elegant words and lofty phrases. He’s more interested in hearing the very passions in our hearts, even if they are expressed only in awkward sentences and groanings too deep for words. And when we do bring our thoughts, our requests, our thanksgivings, and our intercessions for others to God in our prayers, we will find times of refreshing as we remember and realize that God is in control of all of that for all of those people.

   b. God’s Word & Holy Communion

We are also refreshed as we spend time in God’s Word and as we receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Twice in the last chapter of Luke, we hear that the risen Jesus opened the minds of His followers to understand Scripture. They couldn’t piece together the Old Testament prophecies that spoke especially about the fact that the Messiah was going to suffer and die and rise again. But when those Scriptures were revealed to them, they became powerful proclaimers of the Gospel, as is shown by the response to Peter’s first two sermons. We could use the analogy of food here. We adults know that a child will not grow up healthy and strong if all he eats is candy, if all she eats is little itsy bits of what is on her plate. A child needs a full and well-rounded diet of healthy foods to build a strong body. As we receive Jesus’ body and blood in Holy Communion, for our forgiveness, our spirits grow strong for Godly living. As we read more and more in the Bible, as we study it together with other believers, our spirits are refreshed to know that God is faithful, that He is true, that He is reliable, that He keeps His promises, that He has our daily best interests and our eternal welfare in His heart. St. Paul writes to the Ephesians about growing up into Christ and attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. We are both refreshed and strengthened as we dig deep into and feed on God’s Word.

   c. Giving / Financial Stewardship

A third topic to consider as we think about times of refreshing is our giving, our financial stewardship. In the Old Testament times, a tithe (that’s 10%) was the expected offering to God, and its purpose was to teach the people to honour God as the provider of everything. In the New Testament era, giving 10% of one’s income was still common but not a rule for Christians to follow. Paul spoke of our stewardship of money as he wrote to the Christians in Corinth about an offering for the needy people in Jerusalem: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.” This establishes some patterns for our giving – weekly, every household, and a determined percentage – “in keeping with his income” – and that implies “the more you earn, the more you can be expected to give.”

In the olden days – what 5 years ago now – people used to write cheques for their church offerings. We can learn something from that practice. The first thing you would do is enter the date, and that relates to the phrase “on the first day of the week.” It reminds us that we live within the bounds of time, and that our gifts are to be regular, time-bound – weekly, or maybe monthly – in order to provide for the time-bound needs of God’s kingdom in our church.

The second thing you write on a cheque is the name of the one to whom you are giving the money. Really we are giving the money to God, for His purposes, but no bank would cash a cheque made out to God, and I’m quite sure that God does not have an account at any earthly financial institution. So, you write the name of the church or Christian agency that has earned your trust, and that you want to support and encourage in the Gospel work they are doing.

Then comes the amount. And that might take some thought and some discussion. How much do you earn as a household? Will you faithfully give 10% – a full tithe – in response to God’s provision of all that you have? Is it in your heart to give 12% or 15%? Maybe giving is a relatively new thing for you, and you need to grow in your giving. Perhaps you are comfortable with 4% or 6% or 8%. Whatever number you write on that cheque, it’s important that you can give it with joy rather than resentfully or reluctantly. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “God loves a cheerful giver.” Whatever amount you write on your cheque, make sure that you can write it with a big smile on your face.

Sometimes you might fill in the memo line in the lower left-hand corner of your cheque in order to be more specific about where you would like that money to go. For the church, some of it is for salary, some for lighting and heating the church, some of it is for youth ministry and Sunday School, some of it is for outreach. Although the gift is for God, you might think of it all as being for your benefit – to help you connect with God, to equip you to share your faith, to bless the neighbours around you.

Oh, and the last thing you write on your cheque is your signature. That makes it personal. This is you, being intentional about what you have written on all those other lines. It’s about you saying “Thank You” to God for all His blessings – material and spiritual. It’s about you being cheerful about what you give, and in a rebound kind of way that also refreshes your spirit.

   d. Fellowship

A fourth thing that brings us refreshment is the habit of fellowship. Fellowship is a togetherness that is based on having something in common. 2020 was the first year in a long time that I have not attended a CFL football game. I’m hoping to go this year if the season goes ahead and if they allow fans to attend. You may know that I cheer for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, so when I go to a game at BC place and my team scores, I stand up and cheer even though most of the people don’t, in fact, even though most of the people would turn around and glare at me. But when I see someone across the aisle with a green jersey on, or when I give a high-five to the Rider fan sitting behind me, we have fellowship with one another because we cheer for the same team. When I cheer, I know they are cheering, too. When I clap, I know they are clapping, too. It doesn’t matter how old or young they are, it doesn’t matter where they are from. We have a bond of fellowship because we cheer for the same team, even in hostile territory.

That’s one reason for the church. We all cheer for the visiting team, for Jesus, even though we live and work in a world that opposes Him. We stand when a lot of people in the world sit, and we sit when they stand. Maybe you have a sense of fellowship with someone when you see a car with a Christian symbol or bumper sticker. Maybe you inwardly cheer when you see someone wearing a cross necklace. It can be refreshing to know that there are others out there who cheer for Jesus. In Hebrews 10, we read: “Let us not give up meeting together… but let us encourage one another…” That’s talking about fellowship and worship. And yes, we have voluntarily given up meeting together to worship God in person in the last 13 months, but we can still sense the fellowship and be encouraged when we see the comments of people, the presence of people during our online services. It’s like waving to them across the aisle. It’s like high-fiving them in the seat behind you. We’re still together. We’re still on the same team… and that also brings us times of refreshment.



3. Blessings from repentance – the return of Jesus

So, we know that genuine repentance first leads to our sins being blotted out. Second, it leads to times of refreshment – in prayer, God’s Word, giving, and fellowship. Third, that repentance calls to mind the return of Jesus when our sins and the evils of this world will all come to an end. Although we cheer for the visiting team right now, God has promised that a day will come when He will lead all His faithful fans to His home stadium in heaven. That will be eternally refreshing, as the words from Revelation 7 say: “Never again will they hunger… [or] thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. The Lamb… will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away – exaleipho – every tear from their eyes.”

May the continuing words and deeds of Jesus in you and through you deepen in you that hope of Jesus’ return and the forever refreshment of your eternal home. Amen.


Post a comment