Waynedale United Methodist Church
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Making Disciples of Jesus for the Transformation of the World!
   

July 24, 2016 Sermon

“The Church 1000 – 1500 AD”
Acts 14:1 – 7
Ted Jansen  July 24, 2016  Waynedale UMC
 
1.)        The church that was born on Pentecost continues to be alive today.  It looks different in every community, every country, every denomination.  The church appears to have more about it that is different than what is common. 
            Jesus spoke these words to Peter, in Caesarea Philippi, after Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you.  You did not learn this from any human being.  Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”  (Mathew 16:17, 18, New Living Translation)
            The church is based on the profession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Son of God.  Nothing can prevail against it, not even the gates of hell!      
 
2.)        Let’s look at a picture of the early church and how through history the church continues. 
Paul and Barnabas spoke the message of Jesus Christ in the synagogue in Iconium.  What we discover in the book of Acts is another beginning point of the church in Iconium.  I want to lift up three insights into the church.  
a.)  Good news is not always welcomed it divides people.  Listen to what happened to Pau and Barnabas.  “The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles.  There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them.” (Acts 14:4, 5)
            We live in a day when the faith is welcome and appreciated within our community but our culture is shifting.  We might feel like the foundation is changing.  Faith in Christ will not always be welcomed. 
            b.)  Miraculous signs, wonders and experiences can often accompany God’s grace.  “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.”  (Acts 14:3) 
            There are experiences that people have that we call miracles, experiences that we cannot explain apart from the grace and glory of God.  When God’s message, which is a radical one about life from death, is communicated there are unusual things that happen or are experienced that cannot be fully explained.     
            c.)  The Spirit led the church to be on the move.  “But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the good news.”  (Acts 14:6, 7)
            There are times when obstacles come to the church and to the message.  We keep moving and seek to be led by the Holy Spirit.   The message and the mission continue!   
            Let us explore the years 1000 – 1500 to see how the church continued.        
             
3.)        As the big cathedrals, church buildings, were being built the church took the central focus of the village life.  The practice of learning, education and schools were linked to these cathedrals.  The joining of faith and scholasticism were seen as righteous and a good thing.  There were methods involved with students and teachers in learning the different subjects.  Education was very important and grew out of the ministry of the church. 
            “The curriculum of the cathedral school was limited to grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy – the seven liberal arts, so called because in ancient Rome their study had been reserved for liberi, “freemen.”  (Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley, page 198.)
            So the term “Liberal Arts” comes from liberi, which is what freemen studied in ancient Rome.  The church began teaching in cathedral schools. There were different men trained in these schools and some that have a world influence.  Thomas Aquinas was a scholar during this time. 
 
4.)        In the church during this time of education, men were scholars, (women were generally not educated in the formal schools but at home) and were educated with a Christian worldview, an understanding of faith, a belief that God had created the world.  So, the influence of education in the life of the church impacted the world and its culture.  These schools that were primarily started to educate clergy began to educate all who came. 
            (An interesting side note of history is that several hundred years later the schools that were started independent of the church were all were started with a Christian framework.   Schools like Oxford, Cambridge, etc. started out this way.  In our own country schools with names like Harvard, Princeton and Yale were started to educate clergy.)  
            As clergy and scholars gained education we see a clash with the Catholic Church and the popes in particular whose rise to power and popularity is at an all-time high during 1,000 – 1,500.     
 
5.)        The political landscape was going through different changes, like smaller state and regions of geographic rule, and this meant that the role of the pope, the papacy, took on a greater status.  Popes could be good spiritual leaders but they had to deal with a lot of political aspects that at times distracted them.  This caused some people to decry their type of theology that allowed them more power.  At times it was corruption that was occurring.  There was some fundraising going on that in some instances had more to do with financial greed, building projects than a theology of giving. 
During this time period the practice of indulgences, having your sins forgiven, or the pronouncement that your sins were forgiven, were sold for money.  You could sin all you wanted to and for a certain amount of money donated to the church you would be forgiven by the pope, priest or some representative.  This is probably hard to believe but it was practiced.      
             Two men, who were educated, began to speak against the practices that were being taught.  They were John Wycliffe and John Hus.  John Wycliffe denounced the worldliness of the popes and emphasized the freedom of the spiritual man.  John Hus viewed Christ, not the pope, as the head of the church.  
            Because they were educated in the church they understood the theology and could communicate in a way that made sense to the population.   People began thinking about these ideas, and so began a way of “thinking” of the faith, life and church.  
 
6.)        One man in particular who was influential around the 1500’s was named Martin Luther.  He was known for “protesting” his 95 theses against the Catholic Church.  He was protesting the corruption of the popes and the theology that the church was teaching.  He believed it was wrong.  He was very opposed to the practice of indulgences.  Martin Luther also did something that was revolutionary in that he translated the Bible into German so that the German people could read it for themselves.        
            Martin Luther was used by God in church history to start the reformation.  A time of refocusing and renewing a portion of the church.  There were other thinkers, teachers, and leaders like John Calvin, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli who protested for a variety of reasons.    
 
7.)        Martin Luther wrote a number of songs and a familiar one is “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”  I want to look at that hymn and read it as our closing statement of faith.  Martin Luther experienced tough times as he debated, protested and stood against the leadership of the church. 
            Martin Luther was very influential in the history of the church.  He brought songs, a Bible in the language of the people and a faith that was not focused in the pope, or one human, as some of Martin Luther’s legacies. 
              Martin’s “protest” would begin the “Protestant” Church, hence the name from his action. 
 
8.)        Politically, around the 1500's, there were lot of different countries going through power struggles and some of the leaders had connections with the church and some did not.  In England a King named Henry VIII was alive.  Listen to this quote. 
                “Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death.
            Henry VIII was a significant figure in the history of the English monarchy. Besides his six marriages, he is known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church.  Henry's struggles with Rome ultimately led to the separation of the Church of England from papal authority and establishing himself as the Supreme Head of the Church of England.  He changed religious ceremonies and rituals and suppressed the monasteries, while remaining a fervent believer in core Catholic theological teachings, even after his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.”  (From Wikkipedia)
 
9.)        Here is the reason that the Church of England was established.  Henry VIII was married to Catherine.  Henry wanted his marriage annulled so he could marry Anne Boleyn.  To get an annulment, which is a granting of dissolution of marriage, you had to have a reason so the pope or priest would approve.  When the pope refused to do this Henry pronounced himself the head of the new Church of England.  He, in a sense, proclaimed that the Roman Catholic Church had no authority over him, as the King or over England.  He began the Church of England and then he married Anne, who motivated him in the beginning.  Isn’t that a really spiritual reason for the church to come into existence?    
            Church history has moments that have very little to do with “theology” but more with “personality” as it relates to the church.  You wonder how the church can still exist!  
           
10.)      I mention Henry VIII and this beginning as the Church of England because a few hundred years later a man would be born that was a part of that church.  He was used of God to bring renewal and revival to the lives of people in powerful and influential ways.  That man was John Wesley.  We all have a link to Henry VIII because of him starting the Church of England.      
 
11.)      As I wade through this time period of Church history it seems like it gets thicker and thicker with the human stuff of sin, selfishness, and greed.  How can the church still exist? 
            Jesus told Peter that on the rock, the profession of faith in Christ, the church would be built and nothing would be able to defeat it.  Selfishness, scandals, big egos, pride, disaster, or even the gates of hell shall not overcome the church.  
“How will the church survive?”  We ask that question as we look at church history, but we see the church is not based on a location, a favorite political time, a great leader or scholar.  The church is based on faith in Christ.       
            Let us proclaim our faith as we read the words of “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”
A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.