Sermon in a nutshell: “Religion or Spirit?” (Acts 19:21-41)
Today is Homecoming Sunday. In every one of us there is a longing for home. It is a longing for a place where we are known, accepted, and loved for who we are. It is a longing for a place where we are nurtured, guided, and challenged to become more than we are. It is a longing for a place where we can become more like God in Jesus our Lord, the One who showed us unconditional love.
Brothers and sisters! This was why I chose the USA as my new home. When I was in Korea, I heard that in the USA, everybody was honest and honest people would not be robbed. I heard that if I worked hard, I could earn an honest income and have a decent life. Political leaders are elected by the people and honor them. Businessmen and women are diligent and creative and honor integrity. The first president, George Washington, was so honest that he confessed his mistake even when he was afraid of punishment. I heard that most of the founding fathers of the USA were Christians and most presidents have been born again Christians. People have been attracted to the USA from all over the world. The USA has been the ideal home for many refugees and immigrants. We were all hoping to find a place where we were known, accepted, and loved for who we were. We all had hopes of being nurtured, guided, and challenged to become more than we were. I even heard that if I put my gold watch on a public park bench, nobody would take it. I would find it at the same place after a couple of days.
However, we now have a security guard on our church campus on Sundays. We have alarm systems in our sanctuary and church office. I remember my first parsonage. We lived in Kaneville, Illinois. It was a small town with a population of 500. When we locked the car door, people came to us and shared their feelings. They were hurt and offended that we locked our car. We had to apologize and began leaving the car doors unlocked. We confirmed that the USA was an honest and safe place. We decided to be citizens of the USA and make it our new home. That was just 20 years ago.
In the meantime, we had a president involved in a sex scandal in the White House. We had the Enron Corporation, which robbed millions of people of their retirement plans. Drug and alcohol use among teen-agers has risen at an alarming rate. Teen pregnancies and the divorce rate have both sky rocketed. People have been neglecting religious services. More people prefer to play outside on Sundays, skipping worship services. Do you see any relationship between the decline of churches and all of these symptoms? If not, what would be the root cause and what would be your diagnosis?
I would say that at the center of this change is the malfunction of religion. Let us read the Bible. In Ephesus there was a silversmith. He made idols with silver and became rich. He did not care for the spiritual well being of people. He just cared for his business. However, he stirred people up, saying, “Men, you know that we get our wealth from this business. You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.” What was his real concern: Dignity of the idol or his profit? This Artemis worship was not a true religion that cared for the people’s well being. It was a big business for some people.
Now brothers and sisters! What is our real concern: Maintenance of our church building or program or building up a home where everybody wants to belong?
That was what Paul was trying to do: Build a new home for the children of God. It was not like the city of Ephesus, run by greedy business people, fake religious leaders and opportunistic politicians. When Paul preached the Gospel, it was the Good News about genuine community sustained by God’s unconditional love. God had already forgiven and accepted all people and invited them all.
All these wonderful dreams started with one person at a time. Paul talked to one person at a time and shared this vision. Paul was successful because he understood God’s genuine love for people and delivered it faithfully. If we do that again in our time and in our town, we can rebuild our country.
We have a great country. We have had religious leaders who stood up for human rights and justice for all. We have had political leaders who prayed to God and made the White House a place for personal piety. We have had business people who practiced integrity all the time. We have had parents who taught the Bible to their children and lived their Christian values at home. Actually those moms and dads, who were without fame or fortune, were the backbone of our country and of God’s Kingdom. I want to rebuild this country, our home, again with you. I want to start this whole journey from our church. I do not want to blame others. I do not want to criticize others. I want all of us to be faithful disciples of Jesus. I want to rebuild our homes through house small groups. I dream that all the houses become a gathering place for pious men and women who decide to dedicate their lives to raising the next generation of Christian leaders.
Are you dreaming with me? Are you willing to be a part of this movement? Then we can start today building our home together. Sign up for mission and ministries. Eat fellowship meal together. Sing songs together. Laugh together. Make our church your home. Then we will make our country our home together with God’s help. May God bless our hearts and lives!
- When are you going to start your home small group?
- What mission and/or ministry are you going to do it through our church?