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Convicted In Christ

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter – April 21, 2024

In the Episcopal Church’s cycle of readings, it is customary that the First Lesson is taken from the Old Testament; however, during Eastertide, the Great Fifty Days between Easter Vigil and Pentecost, the First Lesson is always taken from the New Testament book, The Acts of the Apostles. 

The Acts of the Apostles recounts the earliest days of the establishment of the Christian church on earth, of how the disciples began the work of spreading the Good News of God’s saving work through His Son Jesus Christ. 

In the Bible, this book immediately follows the four Gospels because the book describes what happened next. It is actually the sequel to the Gospel of Luke as it is written by the same author and picks-up where Luke’s Gospel leaves-off.

The book describes what happened next after the disciples discovered that Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to them in the upper room while they had barricaded themselves behind the locked doors. And, what happened after Jesus commissions them and sends them out into the world to begin the work of establishing His Church that we now rest in on this day some 2,000 years later. 

The reason why the Episcopal Church selects an Old Testament reading as the First Lesson on most days of the year, is because our Christian roots reach back to our Jewish ancestors, back to the God of Abraham, and back to the creation of the world or our Genesis in the beginning. “In the Beginning was the Word.” Through the bloodline of Abraham and David comes the Messiah, the Son of God just as He was proclaimed by the prophets of the Old Testament; all of which point toward Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah.

It is important to understand this heritage because it informs how we come to understand the deeper meaning behind what happens next as described in The Acts of the Apostles. It is here that the salvation promised to the people Israel and accomplished in and through Jesus Christ, is now being continued through His disciples under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.

As we read today, Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter has become a new man – a very different man. The last time we saw Peter, he was hiding behind locked doors seized with fear and doubt. Now, through his faith in Jesus, he is filled with the Holy Spirit and standing as a prisoner in front of the same religious leaders that put Jesus to death. Now, Peter is convicted. He is convicted in his belief in Jesus Christ and that conviction has given him the courage and strength to stand and profess Jesus as Lord and Savior in the face of what could have been his own death.

Just a quick backstory of what has happened that put Peter in this position of being deposed by the religious leaders: 

The Scripture passage just before today’s reading, Peter and John were entering the temple when they came upon a man who was lame. Being filled with God’s Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ, they were able to cure him and restore him to society. Upon being healed, the lame man got up and danced in the streets. The miracle drew a large crowd. As a result, the religious leaders question the two disciples. Peter tells them again that Jesus Christ, the Author of Life and the Savior of the world, was put to death but He has risen and lives. The men are arrested and imprisoned; even so, through Peter words and actions, more than 5,000 people were converted to the Christian church that day.

As we think about Peter, we remember that this conviction we see in him did not come easily. 

Before Peter was compelling, Peter was broken. 

We recall that before Jesus was crucified, during Jesus’ trial as He was being questioned by Pilate, Peter was standing off in the courtyard warming himself by the fire, observing what was happening with Jesus. While standing there, three different people recognized him as one of Jesus’ followers. And, each time, Peter denies ever knowing Jesus. 

The last time Peter denies Him, Jesus turns and looks at Peter. 

Let’s just freeze-frame that moment in time and think about this: At the very moment as the words are escaping Peter’s lips, “I do not know the man,” Jesus’ eyes lock with his. And Peter comes face to face with his own frailty, his own weakness and sin.

Peter is the only person in history who has stood in this place where as one is looking into the human eyes of God is at the same time speaking the words, “I do not know Him.” 

Yet, in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, it is very clear that Peter emerged from that moment of darkness in his life to go on to become quite a different man speaking a much different message. From his lips now come the words of a man convicted in the love of God and his conviction is drawing others to Christ.

When we come face to face with our weaknesses, when our sins are laid bare in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can experience, too, a kind of breaking or dying to self as well. And, although a very difficult journey to travel – to that place within our hearts – it becomes the necessary pathway for transformation – to a new way of living and being in the world – to become the beacon that can draw others to Christ.

Just as Jesus, our Good Shepherd, laid down His life for us, we too as His disciples, are called to “Go and do likewise”, to be willing to take the journey within ourselves, and the courage to face our frailties always believing that in Christ we too can be made new. 

The Lord is our Good Shepherd and into His good care we place our lives; He becomes the authoritative source that dictates our days. And life is never the same.

There is a unique type of Japanese art called kintsugi where broken pottery is repaired by taking a lacquer and mixing it with precious metals, particularly gold, and using the mixture to fill the cracks and replace the missing pieces. The resulting piece of pottery becomes an entirely new and entirely unique and beautiful creation; like none other. It becomes a unique expression of the creator made possible only in the breaking.

So too with Peter and so too with us. When we allow the Potter to do with us as God sees best, when we lay down our lives and place our future and vision in the good care of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can become more than we were before. And, this laying-down and giving up is something that we do daily as we nurture our commitment and conviction that His way is the better way. 

“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” 

Peter, the broken and remade man, has become the rock upon which Christ has built His Church on earth; the church in which we rest on this day some 2,000 years later. 

May Peter be an example for us today that no matter how much gold mixed lacquer may fill the cracks of our broken pieces, that we too are worthy and precious and capable of furthering God’s kingdom on earth. 


Image: See Etsy post.

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The Rev. Elizabeth N. Phillips
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St. Philip's Episcopal Church

6457 Quantico Road
Quantico, MD 21856

Mailing Address
PO Box 92
Quantico, MD 21856

St. Philip's is a proud member of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton