Order, Words, & Voices

Order

Sunday, May 30, 2021

#1 ONE Video #1 (11:47)

  • Song – Bridge Over Troubled Waters (Paul Simon, Steven Stanley)
  • Call to Worship – Joyful (Dante Bowe)
  • Song – I Will Trust (Keathly, Miller, Red Rocks Worship)

Live/OnLine

  • Reading Randy (Live/On Line)
  • Prayer Rick (In Person)
  • Music Abbie (In Person)

He Walks With Me

In The Garden

Victory In Jesus

  • Message ‘Intense’                      Rick

#2 TWO Video (5:30)

  • Song – Praise You In The Storm (Natalie Grant)
  • Community – Next Sunday – The Unseen

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)   Randy, Dona & Steve (Spotlight) (slides)
  • Sharing the Peace   Rick

# 3 Three Audio (2:22)

Song – Joyful (Dante Bowe)Words and Voices

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Call to Worship

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.

Psalm 139:23

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

“You will call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me,” says the Lord

Jeremiah 29:12-14a

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

Psalm 40:1-2

Reading

King Herod saw how much it raised his popularity ratings with the Jews when he persecuted the Christians so he arrested Peter—all this during Passover Week. Peter was put in prison with four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. Herod was planning a public execution of Peter after Passover.

All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously.

The night before Peter was to be executed, he was shackled between two soldiers, and there were guards at the door keeping watch. Herod was taking no chances!

Suddenly there was an angel at Peter’s side and light flooded the room. 

An angel shook Peter and got him up: “Hurry!” The angel said. The handcuffs fell off Peter’s wrists. “Get dressed. Put on your shoes.” Peter did as the angel instructed. Then the angel said, “Grab your coat and let’s get out of here.” 

Peter followed the angel, thinking that he was dreaming. Peter and the angel went past the first guard and then the second, they came to the iron gate and it swung open before them. They ran out on the street freed. 

Peter realized it was no dream when the angel left him. “I can’t believe this really happened! God rescued me.”

Still shaking his head, amazed at what had taken place, Peter went to Mary’s house, the Mary who was John Mark’s mother. The house was packed with praying believers. 

Peter knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized Peter’s voice she was so excited and eager to tell everyone that she forgot to open the door and left Peter standing in the street.

No one believed her. “You’re crazy,” they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. All this time Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away.

When the believers finally looked for themselves they went wild! Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how God had gotten him out of jail, then he said, “Tell James and the brothers what’s happened.” Then Peter left and went to another place.

Acts 12:1-17 (Message)

  • Prayer

Dear God,

You call us to not be taken captive 

Captive through philosophy and empty deceit, 

Captive to human tradition 

Captive to the elemental spirits of the universe

Captive to anything that is not Christ.

You call us to seek you

For you, God, are truth

We have seen the truth through Jesus

In the actions and words, your words, of the Messiah

God, give us a willingness to listen for truth

An eagerness to discern what is truth

To follow you, the God who is truth.

Amen.

Music

He Walks With Me

Though now we have trials, we wait for salvation
Though tested by fire, we suffer with joy
By his great mercy, our hope has been born again
Faithful as the morning, we are raised up with Christ


And I cannot see him, but oh how I love him
I cannot see him, but I believe I know he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me

Raised up with the priesthood, to witness his wondrous works
Called out from the darkness to shimmering light

And I cannot see him, but oh how I love him
I cannot see him, but I believe, I know he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me
I believe, I know he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me

In The Garden

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that He gave to me, within my heart is ringing

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

I’d stay in the garden with Him, tho’ the night around me be falling
But He bids me go thro’ the voice of woe, His voice to me is calling

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

Victory In Jesus

I heard an old old story how a Savior came from glory
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me
I heard about His groaning of His precious blood’s atoning
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory

O victory in Jesus my Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood

I heard about His healing, of His cleansing pow’r revealing
How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see
And then I cried dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit
And somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory

O victory in Jesus my Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood

I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory
And I heard about the streets of gold beyond the crystal sea
About the angels singing and the old redemption story
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there the song of victory

O victory in Jesus my Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood

  • Message Intense

Five stories, four of individuals and one of a group. Stories with a common thread.  Intertwined and interdependent. Stories that give us a glimpse of the early believers and the early church.  Stories that teach us about ourselves.

The stories take place about 15 years after the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Four years after Cornelius and the gentiles accepted Jesus and a couple of years since believers were sarcastically given the name ‘Christian’.

Our stories today take place as the backdrop of persecution of Christians was rapidly intensifying.

Four Individuals

A King

A Slave

A Slave Owner

A Prisoner Awaiting Execution

Let’s start with A King.

A King named Herod, specifically, Herod Agrippa I. His grandfather was the Herod that killed all the newborn males at the birth of Jesus.  Fear induced brutality was in the DNA of this family. Whenever they were angry, mad, paranoid, or just wanting to flex their muscles – they would kill someone, or someones. Only seen in chapter 12, Agrippa recognizes that his polling numbers go up considerably when he executes Christians.  James was killed and now the apostle Peter is next.

Next we look at A Slave

A slave named Rhoda. Rhoda was probably a younger teen taken as a slave following a battle or possibly sold as a slave by her own family.  Rhoda did not own her own life, her own path, her own decisions, or her own destiny. She was not free, equality was not even a consideration or aspiration, this would forever be her story.

Our third individual is A Slave Owner

This particular Mary is new to us, she is the mother of a young man named John Mark, who will become a significant person in the church, – mentored by the apostle Paul then rejected by Paul, accepted by the Barnabas, and eventually re-embraced by Paul. Mary, is one of the followers of Christ and a member of the church in Jerusalem which she hospitably welcomes into her home.  She is also a slave owner. Her story is our story, a story of imperfection.

Our fourth individual is A Prisoner Awaiting Execution

Peter, a former disciple of Jesus, now an apostle.  Peter was an eye witness to the teachings and life of Jesus and his leadership of the church was critical and essential.  Peter’s story is seemingly hopeless, he is in prison, chained and guarded in a fashion that makes escape impossible. Much like his fellow apostle James, Peter’s life was a lost cause. The next day, Peter would die.

And, finally, a Group

This is the story of a group of people new to Christianity.  A group of people following a person who had been executed, a person who had been the target of the religious institution brutally executed by the politicians.  These believers knew theirs could be the next death after Peter.  This was a group, that was a fledgling who had just recently prayed for their leader James only to see him killed. Now they were aimlessly at it again, praying for their leader Peter. Their prayers had no expectations, only desperation. As they knelt in Mary’s living room there was no hope, only fear.  They didn’t know or understand the purpose of this moment, of this prayer, they didn’t have a teacher guiding them through this crisis –  their teacher, Peter, was currently in an impenetrable dungeon and about to be executed. On their knees, shaking with fear, they could only do one thing, they could only cry out to God, and so, in their fear, in their hopelessness, they prayed. No expectations, no plan, no promises, only timid voices calling out to the mighty God.

This was an imperfect group made up of imperfect individuals all of who had just the needed measure of faith to trust the perfect deliverer.  

As this group prayed, Peter, in his miry pit, laid down to sleep, chained and expecting death to come in hours. He had watched this same scenario play out for his friend James, a scenario that ended in death. In Peter’s mind, and for the group at Mary’s house, death was inevitable.

In Acts 12 we have the intersection of these five stories. An antagonist who is not only powerful and paranoid, but also willing to throw anyone under the bus in order to save himself. A group of scared and confused followers of Jesus, praying cluelessly, a prisoner laying on the stone ground awaiting his death, a Christian yet to be aware of her own glaring sin, and a slave girl whose, ironically, very limitations allow her to witness God’s answer to hopeless prayers.

There are countless revelations at the intersection of these stories.  Revelations of our boundless God, revelations of our own failed humanity, revelations of problems in the seen and the glory of the unseen, the unavoidable human imperfections ingrained in our faith, and the revelation of our never ending need for God.  

Acts 12 boils down to a lesson about an imperfect people called to live like Jesus. A people who are far from knowing everything, who have yet to connect all the dots of what they did know, it is a group on a lifetime journey…..it  is group of believers who think all they have in common is this room. It is a picture of an imperfect group following a perfect God – people who were becoming the church, learning, growing, falling, failing, hoping, grieving, rejoicing, fearing, and now, praying, together.

Their desperation and confusion gave them many things to focus on. They may have storming the jail attempting the impossible by their own force, maybe they were considering packing their bags and running in the opposite direction knowing that they could be the next victim, the thought may have crossed their mind to out their friends to provide security for themselves, their attention probably even landed, just for a moment, on the fact that this Christianity thing had caused them nothing but grief and heartache and maybe it was best to quit it all, they could have sat and complained, whined, cried, speculate, conspire, their attention could have been on many things, but instead they focused on what they knew and who they trusted  – they got on their knees, expecting nothing.

This was surely not their first moment in desperate prayers for one of their own.  Chapter 12 begins with the execution of the apostle James, they had prayed and still he died, a truth that had to be on their minds as they prayed.

This is where the story of Rhoda and the story of this group collide.  As the group hopelessly prayed, there was a knock at the door.  For the group, it was not their job to answer the door, it was the slave girl’s job.  They continued to pray, they chose to direct their attention to the practice of prayer. Rhoda heard the knock, she always heard the knock, it was her job.  It was the reason she was there, to serve the host and the guests.  Rhoda did what she was trained to do, she had been trained to pay attention to the door, she opened the door as she always did. As she recognized Peter at the door her excitement overwhelmed her, she slammed the door in Peter’s face and ran to proclaim the answer to their prayers.  In the living room, the attention of the group was diverted, in prayer they could not be bothered with the gibberish of a slave girl, they firmly did not allow this slave girl to divert their attention.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, doctor, philosopher, and psychologist William James said, “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” Later, in a variation of this he said, “Ultimately we will be remembered for what we pay attention to.” Doctor James noticed how what we focus on, becomes, in the end, what we see and even what we are. If I spend my life attentive primarily to my worries, then that is what identifies me, if cannot move my attention for my own hurts and pain, that will be my identifier.  You probably know someone who was so hurt by someone else that all they can think about is that hurt, that pain.  They miss everything else in life, they miss the knock at the door  The praying group was focused on their hopelessness, Rhoda, was attentive to the door, the slave girl noticed the knock at the door.  Even after Rhoda proclaimed that Peter was at the door, the group continued to keep their attention to the impossibilities that kept Peter from the door instead of the God who can unlock chains, open gates, and even knock on a door.  For that moment, only one person saw God’s response to their prayers, a slave girl whose attention led her to open the door.

We all have much to distract our attention, the past year and a half have increased our distractions multifold. In our faith walk, we much like that group praying in Mary’s living room, have many things that distract us in our faith, in our pursuit of knowing God. Even misinterpretations of God’s word and forgotten teachings from Jesus’ life keep us from hearing the knock at our door.  We hesitate to pray because we are distracted by God’s disappointing response from our last prayers, disappointments that we cannot understand, we are unable to process.  We even let our frustration with truth keep us from following, keep us from accepting.  Today is the day, the day to refocus our attention, to seek truth and to hear the knock at the door.

Benediction

Dona: As we go, we go into an intense world.

Steve: Intense disease.

Randy: Intense division.

Dona: Intense wars.

Steve: Intense hatred.

Randy: We also go into a world led by the God our Healing.

Dona: God our Unity.

Steve: God our Peace.

Randy: God our Love.

Dona: We also go into a world where we have a choice.

Steve: A choice to respond with healing.

Randy: A choice to respond with unity.

Dona: A choice to respond with peace.

Steve: A choice to respond with love.

Randy: May we always choose to go with healing, unity, peace, and love.

Closing Peace

May the Peace, the Grace, the Joy, and the Love of the Lord Go With You.

And Also With You.

Go And Live Out The Name Christian.

Published by rickanthony1993

Husband of Andrea, Father of five, pastor of Grace Fellowship Norman OK.

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