3rd Sunday of Pentecost

June 20, 2020


Today’s sermon will begin with a little theology lesson. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt. Theology is simply the study of God. If you have thought about who God is and what God is like, then you have done theology. So, we are going to have a little lesson in theology. In other words, a lesson about how we think about God. The theological concept that we are going to learn has two parts: The theology of the cross and the theology of glory.

The theology of the cross is a way of understanding and studying God by looking at Jesus crucified on the cross. A theology of the cross says that the most visible revelation of God’s identity and what God does, is Jesus dying on the cross. The theology of glory, on the other hand, is a way of understanding and studying God by looking at glorious and powerful things in this world.

The theology of the cross says that God is most clearly seen at work in Jesus and particularly Jesus’ death on the cross. The theology of glory says that God is most clearly seen at work in success and power and glory. So now, let’s apply this theology lesson to the Bible reading from the book of Acts. In Acts chapter 2 we hear Peter preaching to a crowd at Pentecost.

And as we see God at work in Peter’s sermon, we see that God is working through weakness, through condemnation, and through rather boring means. When we see God working through weakness, and humble means, a theology of the cross is at work. So first, we note that this crowd is listening, despite Peter’s lack of qualification and despite a rather boring sermon in which Peter condemns the people.

It is traditionally believed that Peter was an uneducated fisherman. He was not a trained theologian or a powerful speaker or a great leader.
And his sermon is rather dry. There are no great stories, no life applications. He tells them about Jesus’ resurrection and quotes from the prophet Joel and the psalms.

And what is more, Peter condemns the people that are listening. In verse 23, he says, “ this man…you crucified and killed…” and in verse 36 Peter concludes his sermon by saying, “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord
and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” This is not a positive and encouraging message.

This crowd is not listening to Peter because he is such a great preacher, or because he found a way to bring them in and grow his congregation. Instead, the crowd is listening because the Holy Spirit has opened their ears. This is not a story about how Peter did a great work. It is a story about God doing a great work. God works through a boring, judgmental sermon preached by an uneducated fisherman.
This is a theology of the cross—God is at work in the weakness of the world. God is seen in the things that are so un-God like.

A theology of glory says that God is most clearly seen through the slick techniques and polished methods of church growth. A theology of glory reads this story and thinks it is telling them how to preach great sermons that will draw large crowds. By the way, this is my greatest weakness as a preacher—I am well trained, I am intelligent, and I am well liked. I am personable and I’ve learned how to tell a good story on
occasion. But all of my ability is nothing but loss because of what Jesus has done.

A theology of glory says, “Look how great my skills are and how much good I can do for God.” A theology of the cross says, “I have only gotten in the way, it is really God who is doing this.” And that is what we see when Peter preaches. We see God at work. And God does great things with what Peter says. Next week, we will read about what happens after Peter preaches, and we will once again see God is at work, in a most remarkable way.

So, what does this tell us about the church? It tells us that the church should not seek out worldly glory and try to make a name for itself as if we are pursuing our success. Instead, the church tells about what God has done and what God is doing. The church proclaims Jesus and his
crucifixion and resurrection. The church focuses on God’s greatness, not its own.

And not everyone will like this. Next Sunday we will hear about God bringing in thousands of people, but we will also hear that many reject what Peter says. His message is not popular. People don’t like to be told they are sinners. They don’t like to hear that Jesus’ death is because
of their sin. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

But to those who are being saved, it is the power of God. Jesus’ death is the power of God at work for you. It may sound silly for death and humility to be the way of salvation, but that is how it is. God shows us himself in Jesus’ humiliating death on the cross. God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen you, and not because you are faithful or do good works or have done any great thing for him. God has chosen you because you are weak, because you are a sinner, because you are foolish and lost.

God has chosen to be your God, despite all that you have done. God leads you to the cross, where you are united to Jesus’ death. So that united to him in a death like his, you will also be united to him in a resurrection like his.