Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Lent 2021

These Are the Days

A Reading from Acts 14.8-14; 19-20

8 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 This man was listening to the words of Paul, who looked intently at him and saw that he had faith to be healed. 10 In a loud voice Paul called out, “Stand up on your feet!” And the man jumped up and began to walk. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices in the Lycaonian language: “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates, hoping to offer a sacrifice along with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul found out about this, they tore their clothes and rushed into the crowd, shouting, 15 “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human  like you. We are bringing you good news that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God. ..

“19 Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, presuming he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.

What was the Church like in 48 AD?

As we probed and studied these words, a picture of the early church began to emerge.  Although these verses are only a snapshot, it was plain that this was an age of miracles.  Some had a gift of perception. People were healed when others prayed.  Church members were exuberant about their faith, and openly shared their beliefs to help others.  The number of believers grew rapidly, and those who heard the gospel message left their former lives behind.

Some of the questions discussed at Study Time

In v9 how could Paul see faith?

How do Paul’s words in v15 “We are only ..human” help us?

What are the features of Paul’s ministry seen in this passage?

How were Christians in 48AD different to us?

Should they be different?

Those Days have Long Gone.  The Church is Different now.

In the mid-1300s, the Church had moved drastically from anything that looked like the Acts of The Apostles – those exciting, primitive days of raw faith had long gone!

“Acts 14.10 ….and seide with  a greet vois, Rise thou up riyt on thi feet. And he lippide, and walkid.” Wyclif 1395

By 1395, John Wycliffe, a professor at Oxford, had overseen a Bible  translated from Latin into old English.  (On the left we can read Acts 14.9 in strange fourteenth century English)  For a time, the Scripture was now open to all, and the exciting world of the Bible was beginning to be rediscovered.

Wycliffe pointed to two vital truths:

  • Through man-made traditions, philosophy and logic, the Church had tragically wandered away from dynamic Bible teaching and Spirit-filled life.
  • The Lord was now calling the Church to return to the simplicity of the early Christians; to find the treasure of God’s grace, and the boundless love of His only Son, and the penetrating power of the Holy Ghost to transform lives.

Although, Wycliffe never knew it, this was the beginning of a revival of Christianity across the whole earth…….(and the birth of the Church of England) Later, his followers would call him: “The Morning Star of the Reformation.”

Bringing Times of Refreshing into Dark Places

When Patsy and I first moved out of Salford to Warrington in the 1970s, their was something very special about Salford that we really missed – it was the water!   So much so, that when we visited our parents, we brought tap-filled bottles back with us!  The water in Warrington was awful!

Manchester and Salford had been the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution.  Througout the 1800s, these twin cities grew overcrowded and grimy and amassed a huge all-age death rate. In 1895 a fountain was opened in Albert Square which, under the natural force of gravity, leapt high into the air.   It said ‘these dark crowded streets now have a water supply’ – and what a water supply!  It was the clearest, purest, tastiest water, which didn’t even need treating.

his was the secret; the Thirlmere Aqueduct (pictured above) which brought the waters of the Lake District over 90 miles to Lily Dearden’s kitchen tap in Binn St., Salford. The gorgeous H2O of Thirlmere, Haweswater and Ullswater – the Lake District, bubbled into the homes of the poor.

Bringing the Christianity of 48AD into 2021AD

“Jesus stood and cried out, saying,

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

And He was saying this about the Spirit”

(John 7.37-39)

If the beautiful water of the Lake District can be channelled 96 miles to Salford, can the same fountains of life, present in early Christians be channelled across 2000 years into the waiting hearts of 21st century Christians?

This is Jesus’ message at the Feast of Tabernacles in about 29AD.  This was the festival where they prayed for rain, and the huge golden laver, before the Temple, was tipped and its water gushed down the steps into the city of Jerusalem.

What is the Thirlmere Aqueduct in this passage?   It’s the Holy Ghost! This is the power that brings Christians of 2021 back into the glory days of 48AD.

“Paul said to them: Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” (Acts 19.2 KJV)

A Collect for the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, ignite in us your holy fire; strengthen your children with the gift of faith, revive your Church with the breath of love, and renew the face of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

A song: These are the days….

These are the days of Ezekiel
The dry bones becoming as flesh, and these are the days of Your servant David, rebuilding a temple of praise. These are the days of the harvest, the fields are as white in Your world, and we are the labourers in Your vineyard declaring the word of the Lord!