Despite some technical problems on Sunday, which meant loss of sound to our zoom congregation, some strong messages of Christian hope relating to the climate emergency were delivered by the team.
Catch up below….(or jump straight to the sermon)
Introduction to the message
Sermon: Acts Chapter 2 verses 43 – 47 – Living Standards
Rev Norman Smith
I am going to show you’re a series of pictures that depict a lifestyle. Can you determine what lifestyle is being depicted?
These may well be caricatures and not be entirely true in each instance, for our purpose today, they will work.
These illustrate that when we see the things people surround themselves with, how they choose to dress, where they live, where they shop; they all talk about the kinds of life people pursue.
If you look around when you are out and about you will see this symbol of the fish. Used by the early Christians it is what’s called an acrostic. Every letter in it stands for a word.
Look at the screen and you can see the original Greek with the English translation beside it. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.
Does anyone wear a cross? Anyone have a bible text or something similar as a picture or ornament in their home? Anyone have bibles in their houses?
If you own the symbol then you own what is behind it. Wear a badge of Christianity and people have every right to expect Christian behaviour.
Whilst you may be annoyed at a car that zooms past you. How do you feel when it’s a car that has the Christian fish on the back? You comment about how that’s not a very good advert for Christianity.
You know I like showing you pictures of food. Well, the men’s breakfast is going to be starting again soon we hope. Have a look at this, what a great big cooked breakfast this is, doesn’t it look good. With apologies to any vegetarians!
Imagine tucking into that one morning when your neighbour walk in and asks how’s it going. You respond, ok, I’m just working out my diet for next week. I think your credibility would be struggling.
The second you own something you own its values, you become accountable to it with other people able to determine whether or not you are keeping those values.
Consider that after three years walking with Jesus and after claiming to people for 40 days that Jesus had returned from the dead, the disciples and the early Christian community had well and truly owned Jesus. Anything other than obedience to the teachings of Jesus through their lives would take away any credibility.
For those of us living today, when we read this you know the bit that really stands out. It’s the fact they shared their possessions. In a materialistic world we home straight in on the possessions.
How are you with your stuff? Are you generous with your stuff? Are you tight with your stuff? Even if you appear generous is it only the stuff that doesn’t matter?
A friend of mine one day said, I’ve been given a pile of golf balls free, do you want some? Isn’t it good to share? When I looked at them they were the worst or the worst that you just could not play with.
We live in a world of stuff and we like our stuff. When a rich man was asked how much was enough, do you know what he answers? A little bit more. We all want more stuff. Probably not the same stuff, might be more things, more holidays, more friends, more eating out. Just generally more.
They pooled their stuff in the book of Acts but that’s not the big thing. It’s not what they did, it is how they did it. Look at this text:
Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, praising God, and enjoying the good will of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.
‘Eating with glad and humble hearts, praising God, and enjoying the good will of all the people.’
The very nature of their community spoke volumes to all who saw them. How they treated each other, how they interacted, how they spoke, how they behaved.
When you are communicating a message, the manner in which you communicate it is as important as anything else. I bet you have had times when you think. If I could do that again I would do it so differently. I’ve had quite a few like that.
Christianity is not only about what you do, it is also about how you do it. The way you conduct yourself, the way I conduct myself is equally important.
Picture the scene. You go into the supermarket and as you pass the customer information desk there is a person there who is really laying into a staff member, they are not pulling any punches. For everyone in the store to see they are calling them for everything. Then on Sunday in church you are sitting beside this person at communion when they say to you. ‘The peace of the Lord Jesus be with you’. How does that go down?
In Christianity attitude is as important as deed.
Let’s break and come back to this in part 2
Video - Psalm 139
When you consider their actions and their attitude which one comes first.
Observe this person on the screen. Basil Fawlty is famous. No that’s not true. Basil Fawlty is infamous because his attitude is so terrible. That then leads him to so many bad situations
The fact they shared their life together comes from their attitude. Not the other way round.
Today as already mentioned is climate Sunday. We tend to think of this as a day when we feel guilty because it reminds ourselves of how little we do and how we have both too much stuff and use too much stuff.
As Christians the starting point is not to Marie Kondo all our stuff, to ask whether it gives us joy or not or indeed to get rid of surplus stuff.
Nor is the starting point going for a carbon neutral lifestyle or even trying to reduce our carbon footprint.
Those things may come out of the starting point. For Christians, the starting point is recognising we are stewards of God’s creation. In other words, the attitude we approach the world around us with.
This world has not been placed here for us to exploit. We are in effect gardeners of someone elses garden.
Now, look at the people around you, could be here in the church or at your home. Look at them and imagine what their most prized possession is.
If they were to put that possession in your safe keeping, how would you react to it? The starting point of care, is not what you do with it, but your attitude.
How you approach it.
That works for the whole of our lives which includes what we go on to do with this world God has given us.
When Share ‘n’ Wear started, the question behind it all was tied into this question of stewardship. How do we approach being stewards of Gods world? What attitude do Christians have towards creation? How will that approach translate into action, what should we do?
Out of that came a project that on the surface is about saving clothes from landfill by reusing them, but really is about how steward the materials of this world. Exactly the same reason why rather than have it thrown out, each week Dan collects bread from Baynes’ bakery and GGG redistributes it to those in need.
You might be amazed to know this but in its lifetime the project has saved 5.6 tonnes, yes 5.6 tonnes of clothes from going into landfill. It’s also saved around 616 kilogrammes of bread from being thrown out given to those who need it. That’s really amazing.
When it started the driving force behind it was Jesus teaching. In the world that we live in, a world that is not our but God’s what does caring for this world look like?
Remember though, before doing a thing the first thing was to foster and encourage an attitude of care. One of the sad things about our world and our faith is how many people think of the world as being provided for us. It’s there so that we can use it.
I once heard a story of a Christian man with 3 kids who invited someone else from the church round to theirs for a meal. The three kids are important as you will see. They were having baked potatoes and like you would, you serve the guest first. This guest looked at the potatoes, thought I am very hungry and took 2 baked potatoes. Yes a cardinal sin! Needless to say when it came time for the youngest child to get their potato, there was none left and they actually said at the dinner table, in front of everyone, daddy is there none for me?
The attitude of the guest led directly to the action of someone else doing without. The attitude led to the action.
I’ve emphasised this point because it is really important. We all tend to want to do things and we need to do things but there is a step before that, it’s having the right attitude.
Even Paul recognised this. When we do communion we have the words of institution from 1 Corinthians, guidelines on how we should approach communion. Yet there is another bit often not read in churches. Let a man, or a woman, examine themselves. So, before you look out, look in.
He emphasised that point when he further wrote to the Romans in chapter 12 and said to be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
Christianity doesn’t boil this down to a simple set of actions, rather it fosters a way of thinking that then informs your actions. Exactly like you see here with the disciples.
So wherever you are, in what ever situation you are in, are you approaching all this with the attitude of stewardship that will then inform your following actions.
Another way to put it, is that every Christians does not need to do the same thing, every Christians needs to do something.
May God grant each of us the grace to approach stewardship with the right attitude and to follow the early Christian church in doing that. Amen.
Question: What do you think of Christian stewardship?
Missed the service?
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Or listen to the service while out on your walk.
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