Faith to action

18 Apr 2021 by Richie Dulin in: Sermons

Call to worship and welcome

…Know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
    the Lord hears when [we] call to him.
Offer right sacrifices,  and put your trust in the Lord.
(Psalm 4:3,5)

Since the beginning of time, God has been faithful to his people, and God continues to be faithful to his people today.

Hymn: 154 Great is your faithfulness

Prayer of adoration

We pray:

Most wonderful Father, forever beyond our grasp yet by love always within our reach we approach you with confidence.

Most wonderful Christ, forever ahead of us in wisdom and love yet by love always beside us, we approach you with eagerness.

Most wonderful Spirit, forever larger than the whole universe, yet by love living in our hearts, we approach you with delight and joy.

Please enable our worship to rise far higher than our intellect and let our love to go much deeper than our feelings.

To your praise and glory: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God to be ever loved, adored and served!


Prayer of confession


Christ our Lord calls all who love him to earnestly to repent of their sin and live in peace with one another.
Therefore, let us confess our sin before God and one another.
And so we continue in prayer…

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
We have sinned against you and against one another,
in thought and word and deed,
in the evil we have done
and in the good we have failed to do.

We have sinned through ignorance, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.

We have failed to forgive others, even as we have asked for forgiveness ourselves
We are truly sorry and repent of all our sins.

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name.


Assurance of forgiveness

Sisters and brothers in Christ, hear what the first letter of John says:

If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous;
and he is the perfect offering for our sins,
and not for ours only,
but for the sins of the whole world.        (1 John 2:1-2)

So hear again Christ’s word of grace to us: “Your sins are forgiven”

Thanks be to God.

Hymn: 162 Thank you for giving me the morning

Bible Readings

Luke 24:36b-48


36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Acts 3:12-19

12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

Sermon: Faith to action

Last week, in church, we looked at the beginning of John’s first letter, but our gospel reading was from John’s gospel, and it was the story of Jesus appearing to his disciples after his resurrection.

Today, our lectionary compilers, turn to Luke’s gospel for another account of Jesus appearing to his disciples. In his account, John focused on Thomas – who we so often call doubting Thomas – but Luke doesn’t mention Thomas – or indeed any of the other disciples by name.

This makes sense, because John was there, in the room. Whereas Luke is putting together his narrative from the accounts of others. If we go back to the beginning of Luke’s gospel, we read in verses 3 and 4 from chapter 1, “I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account … so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”

So Luke’s account isn’t personal like John’s is… but it is well informed. In the lead up to today’s reading, we have his account of the appearance of Jesus to two of his followers on the road to Emmaus, a village about ten kilometres from Jerusalem. Luke tells us one of them was Cleopas, but doesn’t name the other. They were Jesus’ followers, but they weren’t in the key group, who were now referred to as the Eleven. And while Cleopas and his companion were walking along, Jesus joined them, but they didn’t recognise him.

Jesus asked the two what they were talking about, and they described to him, in detail, the events of the last few days… “the things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. […] some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, […] they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.” (24:19-23)

Despite telling him all these things – clearly, it was a lengthy conversation – they didn’t recognise Jesus: In fact, it wasn’t until after they’d invited this apparent stranger to stay with them, and Jesus had broken bread for them, that they’d recognised him.

And so they’d rushed back to Jerusalem – in the middle of the night – and found the Eleven, to find them already discussing Jesus’ resurrection, so they told the disciples what had happened on the road.

You can imagine the excitement – the rush of sharing details. The speculation about what this meant. The questions for those who had seen the risen Jesus.

And then Luke tells us “While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.””.

I can imagine things suddenly going very quiet. I’m not surprised that they were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. (24:37).

It was all very well to theorise and speculate – and probably doubt as well – but when they were confronted with Jesus, standing there in their midst, they would have been startled and terrified, and the most plausible explanation was probably that it was a ghost – an apparition.

Jesus knew them. And he understood them. And so he reassured them: “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (24:38-40)

We make so much of Thomas’s doubt – if you remember from last week’s reading, he said “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25), and sure enough when Jesus appeared to him he recognised Jesus as ““My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

But Thomas needed no more proof than the other disciples had already received – John records that when Jesus initially appeared to the gathered disciples, he said “Peace be with you” and showed them his hands and his side (John 20:19-20), just like Luke records here: Jesus appears, says “Peace be with you” and shows them his hands and his feet.

And even then, they were still disbelieving and wondering – but now, Luke notes that they’re not terrified anymore… now they’re joyful. So Jesus does something quite mundane: he says to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” and so they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it.

How terribly normal. Maybe not what you’d expect a victorious, risen saviour to do… but what you’d expect a person – a real person – to do. This was no ghost, no apparition, no spirit, but this was Jesus – their leader, their teacher and their friend, come back to life. He was flesh and blood.

They believed. They celebrated.

Jesus, having established that it really is him, that he is not a ghost, reminds them of what he’d already told them – verse 44,  Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

They’d heard it before, but he reminds them now: All of history – the law, the prophets and the psalms, is fulfilled in him.

The resurrection is more than simply Jesus coming back from the dead. This is God’s plan for the redemption of the world – the restoration of the world to the way it should be – being enacted.

Paul later says that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18), so his resurrection points to the resurrection of all who follow him. It points to our resurrection.

But not only did Jesus tell them that all these things had been fulfilled, he helped them understand it. Verse 45 says “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures”.

There’s a difference between knowing things and understanding them. The disciples had heard Jesus tell them what would happen to him several times over during his ministry, but they hadn’t understood.

And, if you think about it, those two followers on the road to Emmaus knew all the facts about what had happened to Jesus, all the way to knowing about the eye-witness accounts of his resurrection. And yet, they didn’t understand. They didn’t ‘get it’. Even with Jesus walking along beside them, the idea that Jesus had actually risen was just that bit too much, and they didn’t recognise him.

And I think we can do something similar. We can focus on learning things or knowing things instead of understanding them. Even going back to the old days of Sunday School memory verses, where you would learn a bible verse by rote, and if you could repeat it accurately next week you’d get a reward or a point toward an annual total. And having repeated the verse, you’d move on to memorizing the next one.

Now, that’s not a bad thing to do. But we need to do more with scripture than simply remember it. We need to understand it. We need to take it into our hearts, and have it change our hearts – and change our lives. Paul wrote to Timothy that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Sometimes people stop at “All scripture is inspired by God”, but Paul is clear that it is inspired by God so that it is useful for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, and so that we, who belong to God, may be equipped to do good work.

So as we open the bible – as a church, as a small group or as individuals – we need to look beyond what the scriptures say, to what the scriptures mean. Of course, we can’t leap to what the scriptures mean, if we don’t comprehend what they say.

Now, we probably won’t understand it all overnight. We probably won’t understand it all in our lifetimes, but that’s okay: We do not need to have all the answers in order to be Christians – to be followers of Jesus. But when we turn to Jesus, when we put our faith in him, we open our hearts to him, and he will reveal himself more fully to us. We will begin to know him better and love him more. And we will recognise him in our lives and the lives of others.

Jesus then effectively recaps what has happened: In verse 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,”

That’s what we believe as Christians. Jesus’ mission was to suffer and die and rise from the dead. That’s what we understand. That’s the message of the cross that Paul wrote to the Corinthians about “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)

But Jesus doesn’t stop there, he goes on “to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (24:46-47)

Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed. That’s Jesus’ emphasis here. He doesn’t tell his followers to go and do good deeds. He doesn’t even tell them to proclaim the good news of his death and resurrection. Instead, Jesus tells them that repentance and forgiveness is to be proclaimed.

To repent is to turn to God. To turn away from the things of the world, and put God first. It’s a big change. It’s not enough to believe, not enough to even understand, but people – we – need to change.

Our faith is not simply knowing things. It’s not simply understanding what things mean. Our faith leads to us being changed. Seeing what Jesus did for us, and responding to it. Taking action. Doing our part – whatever that may be – in proclaiming repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ name to all the nations.

We should note that repentance and forgiveness go together. Often people are quite happy to proclaim repentance (“Stop doing what’s wrong!”), but not so happy about the forgiveness part (“I forgive you for what you’ve done wrong.”). We need to, as God’s people, proclaim both.

Jesus told the disciples to do that, “beginning in Jerusalem”. Why beginning in Jerusalem? Well, that was the centre of Jewish life and the Jewish people were God’s chosen people. So yes, it would make sense to begin in Jerusalem. But I think there’s a simpler explanation – because that’s where they were.  The disciples were in Jerusalem, so that’s where they would start.

So where do we start? I don’t think that it’s Jerusalem. I think we start wherever we are. He we are as the Uniting Church in Carlingford, so it makes sense to proclaim repentance and forgiveness here. I went through the member roll, and counted up, and found that under 40% of our members live in Carlingford – although mostly they’re in surrounding suburbs. But it means that we have a broader geographic reach than simply the suburb our church building is in. And the patterns of our lives bring us into contact with people in many different places and situations.

As I say, I think we need to start where we are…. although we do need to remember Jesus’ instruction to proclaim repentance and forgiveness to all nations.

And finally, in our gospel reading today, Jesus reminds us that “You are witnesses of these things.” (24:48). You are the witnesses, he said, you’re the ones. Not people who are better trained or equipped. Not people who are braver or smarter or have fewer responsibilities. But you. Your faith must lead to action.

It’s the same with us. It’s now our job to be witnesses to Jesus.  Our faith has to lead to our action. We can’t wait for others to take action for us.

And as we look back over the history of the church, we can see that faith has led to action time and time again. People have contributed so much, and contributed in unexpected ways. People have come to faith simply because they’ve be greeted with a friendly smile. People have benefited from our charity. People have been encouraged because of the fellowship of faithful Christians.

And we take heart that God is in control. Ultimately, God has a plan, and it is our privelege to be part of that plan, to respond in faith to what God has done for us in Jesus.

Let us all open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, so that our faith will lead to us to action.

To the glory of God.


Offering prayer

The writer to the Hebrews said:

Do not neglect to do good
and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.   (Hebrews 13:16)

And so we pray:

You have loved us with an everlasting love,
And given us everything we have.

And so we bring to you the gifts of our work and lives,
So they may be used to proclaim repentance and forgiveness to all the nations.

Guide us in their wise and faithful use,
to the glory of your name


Hymn: 233 I will sing the wondrous story

Blessing and dismissal

As we go out into the world, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, wherever we may be,
May we all know the blessing of God almighty – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ, Amen.

Next week

Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18 

For worship:
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Matthew 11:25-30

“A time for everything”