First Presbyterian Church USA 
Riverside Presbyterian Church USA

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April 30, 2017

A Most Successful Sermon

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Every pastor would like to have the kind of response to a sermon that Peter had on the Day of Pentecost.  Three thousand people were added to the church after Peter had finished.  Even more importantly, three thousand people had their lives profoundly changed.  For most of them it was a change that would make them a pariah in their community and even in their own family.  Some would go on to die for their faith.  Their faith was no surface affair.  It involved a complete commitment to the work of God.

There’s a tombstone in Scotland on which are carved these words about a man named Angus McDonald:  “He wasn’t a particularly religious man, but in all other respects he was an ideal churchman.”

How do you do that—be an ideal churchman without being particularly religious?  I’m not sure exactly, but I suspect that could be said of many who fill the pews of Chirstendom.

You’re familiar with the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.  It leans almost twenty feet out of perpendicular.  Somehow, when the architect was planning that tower he designed a tower that reached a height of 179 feet but had only a ten foot foundation.  No wonder it leans!

To me, the tower of Pisa is like a person who’s “not particularly religious, but in all other respects an ideal churchman.”  He or she has an inadequate foundation.

Notice how the three thousand who heard Simon Peter that day responded to his preaching.  They came to Peter and the rest of the apostles and asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

This is a critical point in their lives.  Will they be “ideal churchmen, but not particularly religious?”  Will they have a tiny foundation under a tall structure?  “Brothers,” they ask.  What shall we do?”

Notice what Peter tells them to do, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Did you catch the sequence?  “Repent… Be baptized… Receive the spirit.”  These concrete steps constitute a proper response to the good news of Jesus Christ.  These are the essentials of a vital faith.

Let’s begin with repentance.  This is a word that will fall on many deaf ears.  Not many people nowadays want to hear about repentance.

I appreciate what former San Francisco Giants manager Dave Bristol once said.  His team was in the middle of a terrible losing streak.  Bristol said to them, “There will be two buses leaving the hotel for the ball park tomorrow.  The 2:00 o’clock bus will be for those of you who need a little extra work.  The empty bus will be leaving at 5:00 o’clock.”  In other words he was saying, everybody needs a little extra work.

That’s true of us as well.  There are many of us who feel that repentance is for others.  We’re like the six-year-old girl who said to her mother, “The number one problem in the United States is climate change.  I read that in my Weekly Reader.  Everybody,” she continued, “knows that the number one problem in the United States is climate change—everybody but our preacher.  He thinks that it is sin.  I feel that is just because he’s a preacher.”

Could I say that if there’s a man-made component to a heating earth, sin is definitely a part of that?  God has made us stewards of this earth, but we haven’t taken care of our environment.  So it is with nearly every problem on earth.  Sin is involved… and the sad thing is that most of us don’t want to acknowledge our need of repentance.