Today we have the pleasure of having Ron deVries, Youth Ministry Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries deliver a message from Acts 4:5-13, Do You Remember When…? We will focus on the need to move from a place of worldly hope to one focused on the resurrected Jesus Christ. Jesus often finds ways to remind us that he has not left us, that he is present in our everyday and that our HOPE and identities are rooted in His story.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN…?
September 18, 2022
Peter was in the one of those “do you remember when…” moments in this text. He had many others, some not so good, some powerful moments of “oh Ya”
His back story would tell us what the leaders of the day highlighted in Verse 13. For example, as a child he would have been taught the Pentateuch or the Torah, (first 5 books of the Bible). His teachers, like they did for all the boys at that time, would have assessed Peter and deemed him worthy or unworthy of continuing his education. He was deemed not worthy.
So, Peter would be picked up a trade or followed in his family business. That is why when we are introduced to Peter, he is a fisherman. He was probably good at it and had a strong business acumen.
And for some reason, Jesus selected him and a few other others for a life they had not dreamt possible. If we were to label Peter, he might have been known as the Oldest disciple, (we make assumptions about that). He was a Fisherman who converted to pastor. Peter was the guy who talked far too often and many times before he even thought about what he is saying. We know him as the Jesus denier.
Based on these labels, probably not the first person you would choose or want leading a group or church for that matter and yet here he is making a significant declaration to the leaders of the day and to the world. To the leaders of the day, this didn’t make structural sense.
And then there is a fascinating “Oh ya” moment in here for us as well when we read in Matt 16: 13-19. There are some mirrored words here. Listen
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
I often wonder when we read this if Jesus was looking at the entire group here or was he looking directly at Peter. Because we find it is Peter who answers saying,
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” To which Jesus replies,
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Did you hear it? Rock and Cornerstone. For a person who conventional wisdom gave up on, Peter the Rock, (not to be confused by the Rock we see at the movies), became a key piece of the church and it is his words that frame for us much more than a powerful sermon. There is a truth within it that perhaps we need to be reminded of, today more so than ever.
Let me read his words again for us today.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” To be clear, Peter is referring to Jesus Christ.
A number of years ago, there was a book called “Soul Searching”, in which Christian Smith and Melinda Denton, its authors, coined the phrase “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”. This phrase was used to describe the faith life of many of our emerging adults within the church. The research in this book has been a significant learning for the north American church as we come to understand ministry with young people over the last 1.5 decades.
As a brief summary, here is what is meant when we refer to MTD, meaning Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
Good people go to heaven when they die.
There is certainly a lot in this summary that requires further dissection but for now, let me share what I read in a recent blog that might help us untangle this for a brief moment. It said,
“The most important point concerning Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, however, is not the difference between theism and deism, but how far removed from biblical truth some young people are. The beliefs of MTD are not isolated to Millennials, either. It seems that many people simply view God as a “cosmic genie,” a “divine bellhop,” or a roadside assistance mechanic—you don’t know Him or need to, but you can call Him when you are broken down and He will come and get you going again.
The most important thing, according to MTD, is to be good, nice, and tolerant, and God will ultimately receive you into heaven. This view is probably held by a lot of Americans and seems to be becoming the dominant “civic religion,” which emphasizes the horizontal relationships with other people but minimizes a relationship with God. In short, MTD puts humanity at the center and, ultimately, each individual at the center of his or her own belief system.”
In speaking with many pastors across Canada and the USA, this MTD mindset seems more common within our congregations. At one time not long ago, I would have been very surprised to hear that. Lately, this language has been showing up on my desk more and more.
I am not sure if you are sensing it, but at times it feels like we are living in a time where we seem to be more distant from the heart of the Gospel.
It is the empty tomb reminder, our annual Easter countercultural moment, that helps to bring us back to a place of “aha”, where God is gently triggering in our minds and hearts a “come back to me” moment. We hear it in the ordinary voice, a Holy Spirit filled moment reminding us of who we are and why the empty tomb matters.
We struggle with the worldly views of salvation while dealing with complex questions that impact us personally and collectively. It is our own identities that require the gentle and maybe sometimes abrupt reminders of who we are.
Quite simply, each one of us is a Child of God. 1 John 3:1-3 says
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
MTD wants us to believe that our faith is a part time reflection in our life but the reality is that we as Christians all reflect Christ in the world in all our words and actions. At work, school, at home, on social media and when we are together and when we are alone. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We assume we wear a Christ mask we can take off. The truth is we can’t take it off.
So, what does this mean for us in 2022.
Well, coming out of this pandemic is going to force us to reflect on what it means to be church. We may have a desire to go back to the old normal, but like this Acts text, I am not sure that is what we are being called to do. We have an opportunity for a new wineskin moment.
Here are a few things I would like us to consider as we walk this road.
We are children of the most high. Me, you, your parents, your children. All of us. And this fact is of significant importance as we walk through our days. Our identities are rooted in a risen saviour who loves us unconditionally and represents us to our good, good Father. And nothing we do will ever change that. Do we talk about this at home? Do we reflect this in our daily experiences?
There are people in our midst who have something to say. They may be younger than us or older, they may be educated or uneducated. The Spirit has been moving, stirring something in their souls and we need to make sure we give space for their voice to be heard. Of course, all things must be tested by our faithful Saviour, but to dismiss them will do a disservice to them, and by extension Jesus Christ. Are there people in our midst who have something to share but we haven’t made space for them?
And lastly, our faith must never be stagnant but always growing and learning as we try to figure out who we are in this world. It is kind of like riding a bicycle. If we stop moving, we will fall off. Are we still moving?
So many times, in the last 2 years, God has shown up in my life in places I would never expect. These and other “God’s got this” moments have helped me carry on even when it didn’t make sense or when I didn’t have the strength or motivation to move. Maybe you have had your own moments like this.
David reminds us of this by recording his own personal experience in Psalm 23. In the midst of our pain and troubles, our Comforter arrives and sets our peace on the rock of his grace. Let me read Psalm 23 from The Message as we consider our homes to be places of holy living, where our sandals are removed because God is there with us:
God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.
God is calling us home. Calling us to be light in the darkness. What is your “do you remember when” Christ moment?
For me, I remember when Satan tried to get a hold of me but I remember more clearly when Christ claimed me as his own.