Waynedale United Methodist Church
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Making Disciples of Jesus for the Transformation of the World!
   

July 17, 2016 Sermon

“The Church 501 – 1000AD”
Acts 11:19 – 30
Ted Jansen  July 17, 2016  Waynedale UMC
 
1.)        Jesus spoke about the essence of the church in Matthew 18:20 when he said, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” 
            This is a foundational understanding of the church.  The church exists when two or more come together in Christ’s name.  It might be for fellowship (relationship), or knowledge (growing in the faith), or witness (giving away our faith and love).  Christ is with us as the church.
 
2.)          The good news of Jesus was being shared after Pentecost first to the Jews but messengers began to share with the Greeks.  In Acts 11:19 – 21 we read that the Greeks responded and the church, as defined by two or more gathered in Jesus name, began to grow.   The church was not just for Jews, but for Greeks, the non-religious people.   
Barnabas was sent to Antioch from Jerusalem and discovered “Christians,” Greek disciples of Jesus, forming the church there.  Acts 11:26 tells us that the name, Christian, was first used in Antioch to identify followers of Jesus Christ in the church.  These were “Christ ones” who were not Jewish people.  They were Greeks and Gentiles. 
Barnabas then took Paul, who was called Saul at this time, to Antioch.  We read this verse about what happened.   “So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.”  (Acts 11:26)  The church in Antioch was growing in knowledge. 
As we look at the church today with the understanding of Jesus’ words and what happened in Antioch we learn from the years 500 – 1000.  We will see how the church was influenced by people, movements, geography and time and how the church influenced others.    
 
3.)        The church began in 33 AD in a spiritual explosion and moved into the Roman world when Constantine was converted.  He united the Roman Empire and the Christian faith in the church. 
Around the year 475 the Roman Empire collapsed.  What took its place was the beginning of smaller, regional kingdoms.  It was a period of feudalism, a decentralized authority structure for the various regions.  The church was no longer unified and began a different path.       
 
4.)        In this time of change a number of things were happening that were affecting the church.    
            *The Church was letting go of the control of the state.  This was happening because the Roman Empire did not exist anymore.  
            *The Church was holding on to the importance of the popes in some traditions.  This was happening because with less political power, there still needed to be spiritual leadership.
            *The church in the East and the West were divided along the lines of Orthodox beliefs and Catholic practices of the faith.  There was no desire for unity as divisions kept growing.
            In the midst of the change people continued to have faith in Christ and lived out that faith in gathering of two or more.  Here are three areas that I want to highlight that was a part of the organized church.       
           
5.)        Practices 
Let’s look at a song, a creed and a prayer that were written between 500 – 1000AD. 
            *The song, “Be Thou My Vision,” was written in a poem form in the 800’s.  It is found in the United Methodist Hymnal on page 451.  Let us read the first and third verse together.          
            *Let us read “The Apostle’s Creed” that was affirmed around 700 AD.  This was based on the Old Roman Creed that was written around 200AD.  It is found as #881 in the UM Hymnal.        
            *Listen to a prayer written by King Alfred, who lived from 849 – 901.              
“Lord God Almighty, Shaper and Ruler of all creatures, we pray thee for thy great mercy, that thou guide us better than we have done, towards thee.  And guide us to thy will, to the need of our soul, better than we can ourselves.  And steadfast our mind towards thy will and to our soul’s need.  And strengthen us against the temptations of the devil, and put far from us all lust, and every unrighteousness, and shield us against our foes, seen and unseen.  And teach us to do thy will, that we may inwardly love thee before all things, with a pure mind.  For thou art our Maker and our Redeemer, our Help, our Comfort, our Trust, our Hope; praise and glory be to thee now, ever and ever, world without end.”  (A Time to Pray, 365 Classic Prayer, foreword by David Adam, p 96)
 
6.)        Building 
The church, in its essence, is spiritual, Christ’s presence with us, but we discover in history that it would focus on the physical, its buildings.  It was during this time period that buildings began to have a greater importance and significance.  In 300 – 500 AD when the church and state were together, buildings were a function of the state.  There were some people, and movements, that built monasteries in opposition to the state.  These monasteries were simple structures that were also easy to attack and destroy, which was happening during this time.
            The importance of the huge cathedrals, as symbols of faith and strength, were built in contrast to the simple monasteries.  The cathedrals were grand, expressive and majestic.  They were also hard to attack and take over. 
            Another feature of these big buildings were that in the villages the cathedral was the tallest building in the village.  It was a symbol of the Lord watching over you, a reminder that in all your life in the village, the Lord was watching you, was loving you and was with you.  You could not be prevented from seeing the building that symbolized God and His presence in life. 
            It is worth mentioning that the Cathedral of Notre Dame was begun in 1163.  It is visited by 13 million people every year and a practicing congregation still uses the building.  It is an impressive building by today’s standards.  Imagine what it was like in 1163!    
 
7.)        Crusades
One of the periods of church history that started around the year 1000 was the period of the Crusades.  Christians had traveled to the Holy Lands peacefully for years to see the sites where Jesus lived.  It has been a special thing to do, it still is. 
Christian leaders promoted the cause of going to the Holy Land to take over the Sacred sites because the Seljuk Turks, some new and fanatical converts to Islam, held control and were harming the pilgrims. 
“In 1095, after Eastern Emperor Alexius I sent out an urgent appeal for help, Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade to regain the Holy Land.  Preaching at the Council of Clermont in southeastern France, the pope urged Christians to take up the cross and strive for a cause that promised not merely spiritual rewards but material gain as well: “For this land which you inhabit… is too narrow for your large population; nor does it abound in wealth; and it furnishes scarcely food enough for its cultivators.  Hence it is that you murder and devour one another…enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre; wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it to yourselves.” 
As Urban ended his impassioned appeal a roar arose from the multitude; Deus Volt!  God wills it!  So, there on the spot Urban declared that Deus Volt! would be the crusader battle cry against the Muslim enemy.    (Church History in Plain Language, Bruce Shelley, page 187)
            The rest of the history book goes on to tell of the violence and murder that happened all in the name of Christianity. 
               
8.)        What can we learn from history as we affirm the church, which is when two or more come together in Jesus’ name?  We can affirm our past and learn from it.      
            a.)        What does an ancient song, prayer or creed tell us about our faith?  Why is it important to learn from our past?  Why do we need new “Christians” to create new songs, new prayers and expressions of faith creeds in 2016?  Each generation allows Christ to dwell inside!    
            Psalm 149:1 tells us to, “Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.” 
            We affirm the ancient truth in songs and creeds and thank God for new and alive worship.     
 
            b.)        As we think about our building what does it say about God, and our faith in God?  What does the space in this sanctuary communicate?  What do we need to change, update, and get rid of, so that our facility expresses God’s glory? 
            In Luke 21:5, 6 it says, “Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God.  But Jesus said, As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”     
            We affirm the importance of buildings that reflects God’s glory but understand that a building is not sacred.  What is most important happens in the hearts of people.  We want to thank God for all the people who helped build this building for God’s glory.    
 
 c.)       We need to realize that the Kingdom of God is not about Kingdoms on earth.  The Crusades failed to accomplish what they sought to do. Some of the land was reclaimed from the Muslims for a period of time, but we are still paying a price for the injustices that occurred in that time of history. The church sought to build a physical kingdom rather than a spiritual kingdom. 
            Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:19 – 21)  
            We affirm the kingdom of God as seek to bring love to people.  Here is a true story that I recently read about.      
             
9.)        Pat McMahon, is a radio talk-show host in Phoenix.  He once interviewed Mother Teresa for his program. He was so impressed with her that afterward he told her that he wanted to do something for her. "I'd just like to help you in some way," he said.
She said to him, "Tomorrow morning get up at 4:00 a.m. and go out onto the streets of Phoenix. Find someone who lives there and believes that he's alone, and convince him he's not." 
 
10.)      The church in its essence lets others know that they are not alone, that you and Christ are with them.  We must remember that we don't have to venture into the inner-city during the wee hours to find those who believe they are alone. 
You see them every day. You sit with them in worship. You work with some. You see them in stores and on the streets. Some even live in your neighborhood. 
The world is full of people who believe they are alone, living empty and isolated lives. It is up to each of, as the church, to make a difference.
Think of what might happen if you sent a simple message today to everyone you meet: You are not alone. I'm here with you.
            Jesus said this about the church in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” 
Be Thou My Vision (English Methodist Version – 1964)
 
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
 
Be thou my Wisdom, and thou my true Word; I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, and I thy true son, Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
 
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise; Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and thou only, first in my heart, High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.
 
High King of heaven, my victory won, May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
 
 
Apostle’s Creed  (Traditional Version)
 
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, 
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; 
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, 
born of the Virgin Mary, 
suffered under Pontius Pilate, 
was crucified, dead, and buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead; 
he ascended into heaven, 
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; 
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, 
the holy catholic** church, 
the communion of saints, 
the forgiveness of sins, 
the resurrection of the body, 
and the life everlasting. Amen.