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American Baptist News Service (Valley Forge, Pa. 4/4/05)--American Baptist Churches USA General Secretary the Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley has expressed sadness over the death of Pope John Paul II and appreciation for the pontiff’s commitment to interfaith dialog and to social justice.

"Today, with many other American Baptists and Christians throughout the world, I deeply mourn the passing of Pope John Paul II," Medley said Saturday after the news of the pope’s death had been received. 

"Although our traditions each are distinctive, we have shared with this great pastoral leader a fundamental commitment to glorify God through embracing the precious gift of new life and reconciliation embodied in our Lord Jesus Christ,” Medley said.  "Over the past quarter century John Paul II inspired millions of Catholics to examine their faith and draw closer to God.  He has been a leading voice for the poor and disenfranchised throughout the world, and a strong advocate for peacemaking and for understanding among cultures and religions."


"My prayer," Medley said, "is that our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers will find God’s peace and comfort at this moment, as the transition to new leadership begins."

Call to Worship           

Leader: Come, let us walk with one another as the disciples did. Let us journey together as we tell God’s story in song and proclamation.
People: Let us ponder what we have seen and heard; what we know to be true, and what we hope beyond hope is real.
Leader: Let us walk, that our minds might be clear, our hearts open, and our spirits renewed.
People: Behold, God journeys with us; Jesus walks beside us. May the Spirit give us eyes to see the risen Christ:
All: Here and everywhere, now and always. Let us worship God!

*Hymn of Praise           # 401               It is Well with My Soul

Invocation        (the Lord’s Prayer) Show your face among us, Loving Jesus, for we are those who walk the road with you now.  Come to us as a presence of wisdom and truth.  Come to us as the one who lives deeply within our life.

Choir                                        Blessed Assurance

Responsive Psalm 116

1      I love the Lord because he hears and answers my prayers.

2     Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath!

3     Death had its hands around my throat; the terrors of the grave overtook me.

I saw only trouble and sorrow.

4     Then I called on the name of the Lord:  “Please, Lord, save me!”

5     How kind the Lord is! How good he is!  So merciful, this God of ours!

6     The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and then he saved me.

7     Now I can rest again, for the Lord has been so good to me.

8     He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.

9     And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth!

10    I believed in you, so I prayed, “I am deeply troubled, Lord.”

12    What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?

13    I will lift up a cup symbolizing his salvation;

I will praise the Lord’s name for saving me.

14    I will keep my promises to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

15    The Lord’s loved ones are precious to him; it grieves him when they die.

16    O Lord, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, the son of your handmaid,

and you have freed me from my bonds!

17    I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.

18    I will keep my promises to the Lord in the presence of all his people,

19    in the house of the Lord, in the heart of Jerusalem.

      Praise the Lord!

Rick Irish                                  I Cannot Tell

Our Offering to God                 Let us bring our offerings to God as though Jesus is at our table to receive them.


Prayer of Dedication                 We bring our gifts to you in response to good news.  Christ is risen indeed and abides in us still.  May all that we do be in response to new life.  As you accept who we are, O God, receive what we offer, and transform all of our being to conform with your will.  Extend your grace through us so that others hear of the salvation that you bring.  AMEN.

*Hymn of Prayer                      # 359              More Love to Thee, O Christ

Pastoral Prayer                         We enter your courts with praise,  we come into your house with thanksgiving.  We are a people of promise, thanks to your amazing grace.  Through the gift of your Son Jesus we are born anew.  You do not forsake us when we stray from your way.  You have sent us the Christ, who shows us your will.  He brings us the light to illumine your desires, in him we have confidence that you will work all things for good.  We pray for those on the journey of faith, we pray for those who fear losing control of who they shall be, we pray for those seeking to cope with the pressures they face.  We pray for help to take that leap of faith.  May we grow together in fulfilling Christ’s call. 

*Hymn of Praise                       # 288               Amazing Grace

Scripture Reading         Acts 2: 14a, 36-41

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, 36Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Message                                   Instant Messaging

Start the sermon by giving the congregation 30 seconds to translate and identify: if you are not into computer ease or text messaging on a cell phone please be patient this morning I will get back to biblical application.
Dad@hvn, ur spshl. we want wot u want &urth2b like hvn. giv us food & 4giv r sins lyk we 4giv uvaz. don test us! sAv us! bcos we kno ur boss, ur tuf & ur cool 4 eva! k?’
Got it?
For the uninitiated among us, this probably looks like a new form of transliterated Near Eastern hieroglyphics. For the younger demographic, however, this one’s a no-brainer.
It’s the Lord’s Prayer — or at least a shorthand and text message version of it. This particular version by York College (U.K.) student Matthew Campbell won a contest put on by the online Christian magazine Ship of Fools in which entrants were encouraged to update the oft-repeated prayer to read in 160 characters or less — the length of a mobile phone text message.
Here’s the “literal” translation of those words: “Dad in heaven, you are special. We want what you want and earth to be like heaven. Give us food and forgive our sins like we forgive others. Don’t test us! Save us! Because we know you are boss, you are tough and you are cool forever. Okay?”
Welcome to the world of Generation Txt, where the English language, like most everything else in the realm of communication, has been reduced to the smallest of parts.
Text or “instant” messaging (also called SMS, or Short Message Service) is rapidly overtaking e-mail and voice as the primary means of communication among adults in many areas of the world. Users can type a quick, shorthand message and instantly fire it off to a friend or coworker’s cell phone or PDA — no need to wait for the phone to ring. It also enables the sender to know whether the other person is online at a given moment, using indicators that flash or play sounds when the other person logs on or off.
A survey by AOL shows that 59 percent of American Internet users are “texting” each other, with 90 percent of those being in the 13-21 age bracket. As with most youth culture trends, text messaging has brought a new and, for some, disturbing transformation of the language.
It’s interesting that an apparent de-evolution in language is actually enabling more people, particularly young people, to communicate better and more often. While the rest of us may not be able to type that fast with our thumbs, there is hope that we can crack the code.                                                                                                                               In the post-resurrection experience of the disciples, the world was being turned upside down. And the first sign of it was that people were hearing and seeing things they couldn’t understand.
The advent of the Holy Spirit was — as it were — the beginning of instant messaging. Jesus had given them a heads-up about this — that the Spirit would translate and disseminate Jesus’ message to and through them: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:12-15NIV).
Now, as this new matrix begins to unfold, Peter, speaking boldly and using language far beyond his own previous skill and capacity, texts a sermon straight from the Holy Spirit and the Hebrew Scriptures — a wi fi, fired up translation of Israel’s history into “His-story” — the story of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ. “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (2:36). Peter’s proclamation of Jesus as the Christ was short, to the point, and tremendously effective: God has made Jesus Lord and Christ. Both of these terms would have been surprising to ancient Jews. First, the expectation that God would send a messiah was fairly widely held, and despite the fact that there were divergent views about the identity, role and function of this figure, nobody would have imagined that a crucified prophet would be proclaimed Messiah. Second, the term “Lord” was reserved for the one God who ruled over Israel; it was not applied to people. It is no wonder, then, that early Christian exegetes of the Scriptures of Israel had their work cut out for them!
In a message that’s tighter than Paris Hilton’s jeans, you get an impression real quick: 
Peter: God has made Jesus Lord and Christ. // People: What shall we do? (2:37). //  Peter: Repent.
As with any instant message, the message itself can be fleshed out.
Peter argues to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost celebrations that God is the agent of all the changes being seen here. It was God who worked miracles by empowering Jesus to do them (2:22). // It was God who delivered Jesus into the hands of his enemies (2:23). // It was God who then raised Jesus from the dead (2:24). // It was God who made the covenant with David. // It was God who gave the promised Holy Spirit who has now been “poured out” among us (2:33).
Moreover, God made Jesus Lord.
It’s a word that was typically not associated with messianic promises, but reserved for God himself. God revealed Jesus to be God, or Lord.
And it was God who made Jesus the Christ, or Messiah.
God. God. God. That’s powerful text. And disturbing text. The response of the people is quick and brief: “What shall we do?”
It is an appropriate response for all of us. If it is God who gave Jesus power to work miracles, and who delivered Jesus into the hands of his enemies, and raised him from the dead, and who promised us and delivered to us the Holy Spirit, what other question is there for us except, “What shall we do?”
Do we continue to live as though God does not exist? Do we stumble through life in pursuit of earthly pleasures and possessions as though the most important thing is to die with more toys than anyone else? Do we try to shoulder the burdens and responsibilities of life as though there is not a divine Presence to help us with those burdens? Do we live as though we are alone in the universe?
What shall we do? The short answer is “repent.” Metanoia. Change. Turn about. Turn around. Stop going in one direction and go in another. Do an about-face.
The fruit of that repentance is that we receive the Holy Spirit who mediates the presence of God in our lives.
The Holy Spirit acts for us like the IM piece of the Trinity — the power and word and activity of God given to us in a moment in order to clearly communicate the truth and good news of Christ.
Peter also makes it clear that this movement of the Spirit is going to be widely broadcast across generational and national borders (2:39), making this language of good news available to everyone. The disciples were now set to translate the story of Jesus for the rest of the world. They did it in a world where walking was the primary mode of transportation and messaging consisted of rolls of parchment and months-long mail service. We can do it in a world that has become progressively smaller because of technology that enables us to transmit a thought in less than a heartbeat.
In other words, we are hard-wired to use the gift of the Holy Spirit himself and the gifts of the Spirit within us to mass communicate the love of God through Christ to a world where nearly everyone is in reach.
But the core message is simple: God has made Jesus Lord and Christ.
In response, we repent — and begin a new life text-messaging, or life-messaging the Good News to others.
Sources: “Is txt mightier than the sword?” BBC Skillswise Web Site, Retrieved October 18, 2004.   McCasland, Dave. “Transl8r.” Soul Journey Web Site, September 10, 2004, “Texting teens use SMS for help.” BBC News (UK Edition) Web Site, September 8, 2004, Walker, Leslie, “Instant messaging is growing up, going to work.” The Washington Post, September 2, 2004, E1.

*Hymn of Response                 #67   Fairest Lord Jesus

*Sending forth 

When the crowd heard Peter’s words, they were “cut to the heart.”
They were forgiven; they were baptized; they were changed.
Could it not happen again, even today?  Can God’s word still pierce the heart?
Can Jesus’ love still mend and heal? Can the Spirit’s power still seep into the dark and broken places?
We pray, we live, we serve, in hope that transformation is possible, for us, and for the world.
Go from this place, committed to love God, to proclaim Christ, and to be led by the Spirit. Amen.


Animating Illustrations

Dad@hvn, ur spshl. we want wot u want &urth2b like hvn. giv us food & 4giv r sins lyk we 4giv uvaz. don test us! sAv us! bcos we kno ur boss, ur tuf & ur cool 4 eva! k?’

In the mall parking lot, I turned the key in the ignition. There was no response. I knew the battery had to be dead. The lights would not come on. “Dead” is a good word for the whole car when the battery is not operating. Without a battery, no lights flicker, no dashboard indicators work. Every element in the whole engine can be in fine working order, but without the battery, the car will do nothing.
I called my husband on the cell phone to come with his jumper cables. While waiting for him to arrive, I thought about how the car without a battery is like a Christian without the Holy Spirit. Right after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the disciples just sat there, not knowing what to do.
Shortly, my husband arrived with the jumper cables. He hooked the cables between his live battery and my dead one. Soon, power flowed into my car. It could now take me on the rest of my trip.
The same thing happened to the disciples at Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit reached them, they were filled with the power needed to spread the gospel of Christ. The gathered disciples previously had all the equipment needed to do God’s work — all except the power. They needed the power of the Holy Spirit.
We need to be connected to the Holy Spirit. Without him we are like my car — a perfectly good engine, a capable driver, but no power.
—Ivie Bozeman, “No action without power,”

 “Prayer is not about getting what we want,” says Brian Blount, a Princeton New Testament professor, “or even what we oftentimes are sure is right for us and those around us; prayer is about unleashing the frightening, unstable, uncontrollable power of God.”

A monk found a very precious gemstone. He put it in his knapsack and carried it with him.
One day he met a traveler in need who asked the monk to share some of his provisions with him. The monk opened his knapsack to share his food, when his fingers found the gem. So he lifted out the stone and gave it to the traveler. Overjoyed by his good fortune in the valuable stone, the traveler went on his way.
A few days later, however, the traveler caught up with the monk. He begged him again: “Please give me something more precious than this stone,” he said. “Please give me that which prompted you to give the stone to me.”
Just like the traveler who encountered the monk, we should ask God to give us a life that can become the gospel to our fellow travelers and help us to live in such a way as this.
—Stan Copeland, “He orchestrated the party that spilled into the streets,”

Children's Sermon

Show the children a flashlight, and then take it apart, showing them the body of the flashlight, the light bulb and the batteries. Can any of these parts, all by itself, create light? No! The various parts of the flashlight have to work together to give us the light we need on a dark night. Peter said the same thing about God when he was preaching to the people of Jerusalem. Hold up the body of the flashlight, and point out that the body of the flashlight is the case that holds everything together — it is kind of like “God the Father,” whom the people already knew about. Then hold up the light bulb, which stands for Jesus — he is “the light of all people” (John 1:4), and Peter is teaching the people that Jesus is the Lord and the Messiah (Acts 2:36). Are the flashlight body and bulb enough to make light? No, they still need some battery power, which is the contribution of the Holy Spirit — the Spirit is the power which came to the apostles on Pentecost, and which is available to “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him” (Acts 2:39). Place the batteries in the flashlight, screw on the lens with the light bulb, and turn it on. Believing in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is what brings light into the world. Close by saying that when this light was first turned on, an amazing thing happened — 3,000 people were baptized and became Christians, making the world a much brighter place..


The main point of Peter’s scriptural arguments is to demonstrate that “God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (2:36).
Despite the audacity of Peter’s claims about the person of Jesus, the crowd takes his words quite seriously, and in fact is shocked and deeply troubled. They press Peter and the other apostles with the question: “What should we do?” (2:37; note that this is the same question that the crowd asks John the Baptist in Luke’s gospel [3:10] after he has excoriated them). Peter’s brief answer contains a number of themes that are important in Luke-Acts.

Peter’s first charge is that his listeners “repent” (2:38). This verb in Greek (metanoew) implies a change of mind or reorientation of one’s thinking that in Acts is often associated with conversion (e.g., 3:19; 5:31; 13:24; 17:30). The second imperative that Peter gives to the anxious crowd is to “be baptized” in “the name of Jesus Christ” so that their “sins may be forgiven” (2:38). Baptism had become the standard ritual of initiation into the Christian community by the time Acts was written. In addition to this reference about baptism in Jesus’ name, in general the author of Acts regards the phrase “in the name of Jesus” as a validating feature of many deeds carried out by the apostles (e.g., 4:10; 5:28; 9:16; 16:18). The “forgiveness of sins” has strong links with the ministries of John the Baptist (Luke 3:3) and of Jesus himself (Luke 5:20-24; 7:47-49; 11:4; 17:3-4; 23:34; 24:47) and is one of the hallmarks of the Christian community (Acts 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 22:16; 26:18). The fruit of repentance and baptism will be the reception of the Holy Spirit (2:38), just as Peter and the others had just experienced (2:1-4).

Peter continues by asserting that to whomever the Lord God calls belongs the “promise” (2:39). As Luke Timothy Johnson argues in his masterful commentary (The Acts of the Apostles, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press), this word “promise” seems to refer in Luke-Acts to the promise of blessings made by God to Abraham (see, e.g., Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 22:15-18; and Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; 3:24-36; 13:32; 26:6). Here, however, the promise is not offspring, land, political dominion or the like, but rather the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (the blessing has thus been literally “spiritualized”).

It is important to point out that the reference in 2:39 to those “whom the Lord our God calls” is an echo of the Greek version of Joel 2:28-32, which immediately follows the passage from Joel that Peter had cited in his speech (2:21). In this Greek version of Joel 3:5b (which is different from the Hebrew versions that are translated in our English Bibles), “those whom the Lord summons” are a remnant of the Jews who “will be preached the good news.” This verse makes it even clearer why the author of Acts thought the Joel 3:1-5 passage was foreshadowing the events that had transpired on Pentecost.

We are told that Peter continued to instruct and exhort the crowd for some time (2:40). Note that while the NRSV translation renders Peter’s warning “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation,” the Greek imperative is more properly translated “Be saved,” which resonates with the reference to those who “shall be saved” in the Joel citation earlier in the speech in 2:21; the emphasis here is on God’s act of rescuing the believer from the “corrupt generation.”

This passage ends with the announcement that 3,000 members of the crowd accepted Peter’s message and were baptized into the community (2:41). These quantitative references to the growth of the fledgling Christian community are common in the first part of Acts (2:47; 4;4; 5:14; 6:1; 6:7).

In this episode the author of Acts attempts to demonstrate that the Old Testament promises of the restoration of God’s people are being realized in the messianic community that looks to the resurrected Jesus as its Lord. The reception of the Holy Spirit by the believers was predicted by Joel 2:28-32 and represents the blessing promised long before Abraham.

Peter had been an unstable leader during Jesus’ ministry, letting his bravado be his downfall, even denying that he knew Jesus (John 18:15-18, 25-27). But Christ had forgiven and restored him (John 21). This was a new Peter, humble but bold. His confidence came from the Holy Spirit, who made him a powerful and dynamic speaker. Have you ever felt as if you’ve made such bad mistakes that God could never forgive and use you? No matter what sins you have committed, God promises to forgive you and make you useful for his Kingdom. Allow him to forgive you and use you effectively to serve him.

After Peter’s powerful, Spirit-filled message, the people were deeply moved and asked, “What should we do?” This is the basic question we must ask. It is not enough to be sorry for our sins. We must repent, ask God to forgive us, and then live like forgiven people.

Acts 2:38, 39

If you want to follow Christ, you must “turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized.” To turn from sin means to repent, changing the direction of your life from selfishness and rebellion against God’s laws. At the same time, you must turn to Christ, depending on him for forgiveness, mercy, guidance, and purpose.

Acts 2:40-43

About 3,000 people became new believers when Peter preached the Good News about Christ. These new Christians were united with the other believers, taught by the apostles, and included in the prayer meetings and fellowship. New believers in Christ need to be in groups, where they can learn God’s Word, pray, and mature in the faith. If you have just begun a relationship with Christ, seek out other believers for fellowship, prayer, and teaching. This is the way to grow.

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