When the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary (sermon text version)

(Note:  For those of you receiving these emails for the Carol Me, Christmas (2014 Advent Devotional Series) I still post both the audio and the sermon text versions of messages I preach on Sundays along with the day’s Advent devotionals.  I hope you enjoy these sermons and are blessed by them.  When the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary (Acts 4:13-22) continues the sermon series of Acts of the Holy Spirit and the Apostles which began in August and can be accessed through the August-November archives.)

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When the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary

Every once in a while, someone basically accuses me, “Who are you…?”  A lot of the time, it’s said with a sneer. (Fill in the blank):

  • cookie cutterWho are you…to judge?
  • Who are you…to say?
  • Who are you…to try?
  • Who are you…to think that?

Indeed, I often ask myself,

Who am I?”

Oftentimes, my answer to “Who am I?” is “Nobody…”  (Fill in the blank)

  • Nobody special
  • Nobody important
  • Nobody worthy
  • Or just Plain Nobody

In the realm of humanity, with our horizontal comparisons, we’re often just plain nobodies.  The bad news for humanity is we’re constantly comparing ourselves on some sort of worthiness scale.

Maybe your personal worthiness scale is Mother Teresa (good!) and Hitler (all the way down on the bad end) and you hope to at least be in the upper half of your graduating class.  More on the Mother Teresa end and leaving the lower half Hitlers to everyone else.

While I was away in Florida for the birth of my grandson, Ryan, I had the opportunity of driving my daughter to Ryan’s first pediatric visit.  While we were in the waiting room another young family came in.  With a baby about the same age.  The mom was beyond talkative about her baby doing this or that, having had her first bath plus clipped fingernails and loving it all, sleeping so well, and excelling at everything that a newborn can excel at!  After a vocal outburst…at the reception desk about how they have an appointment and need to be seen immediately, they were ushered away and I looked at my daughter and her beautiful baby and said, “Welcome to the world of competitive motherhood.”  We go from feeling like nobodies raising nobody children compared to somebody’s miracle child who will appear in every family Christmas newsletter as the star of amazing accomplishments, previously unknown to the human race.

cartoon son of godThe Good News is that God turns Nobodies into Somebodies. 

That’s what happens when the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary.

Oh it’s not like the cartoon I saw of 3 women riding on mules back to Nazareth with bumper stickers on the back ends of the mules.  One woman mutters, “Well! If it isn’t Joseph and Mary…” The bumper stickers said, “Our son is an honor student.”  “Our son is in medical school.”  Mary’s said, “Our Son is God.”  The real Mary was much more humble than that, but when the Ordinary meets the Extraordinary we do become changed people.

We become Somebody special.  Somebody important.  Somebody worthy of receiving God’s particular notice and favor, even though–in and of ourselves–we’re unworthy from horn to hoof in the eyes of God and man.  In God’s eyes, though, we’ve always been His precious Image bearers and that’s what He sees when He looks at you and He looks at me, sinners though you and I are.

We go from being Nobodies to Somebodies with 5 important results. 

As we look at those on the second Sunday of Advent and I’d like to publically thank Bill Slater for having continued our series of Acts during the month of November.  I’m glad to be back among you as friends.  It feels good to be home. At home, nobody cares that we’re nobodies.  Among friends in church, we’re always somebodies because we’re a family of equally loved children in the eyes of God.

Today, we’re in Acts 4:13-22 and in the flow of Acts we’ve seen how Peter addressed a crowd of Nobodies and they became Somebodies in Christ.  3000 of them, Scripture says.  They devoted themselves to a study of the Word and praised God and grew from the earliest beginnings of a few Nobodies to a whole bunch of people God sees as Somebody chosen for heavenly dwelling because of Jesus Christ.

Peter and John were two such Nobodies who were plucked out of their fishing boats to follow Jesus.  But after following Him as His chosen disciples, what did they do?  They abandoned Jesus while He was reduced to a Nobody on a Cross in the eyes of man.

Psalm 22:6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.

This Messianic Scripture speaks to His being—in the eyes of man at least–pretty much a Nobody.

But after Jesus’ Resurrection, His reinstatement of Peter and His encouragement of John the beloved disciple who abandoned Jesus too, Peter and John proved that changed lives make great testimonies!

Result #1 when the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary: we go from Nobodies we are in the eyes of mankind in our competitive world to knowing we’ve always been Somebodies in the eyes of God.  Not because of who I am, as our song said this morning, but because of who God is.

But Result #2 when the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary is that we get sent on an important mission!  Peter and John boldly went to the temple to evangelize.  They were Somebodies with a mission: to demonstrate the Life-Changing Jesus Christ!

What more powerful witness to the Life-Changing Jesus Christ than to heal a crippled man with no life other than to beg?  So they heal him, giving credit to God of course, and what happens?  This formerly crippled man becomes a source of contention among the people who thought they were definitely Somebodies in this world.  The religious leaders had quite a high view of themselves.  They didn’t quite like that the numbers of people listening to these Nobodies had grown from 3000 to 5000 when the leaders weren’t experiencing ministry growth!  It’s not fair.  Those disciples are Nobodies and we’re Somebodies!  Yet those Nobodies are doing nothing but continuing to grow in numbers with Peter and John talking about their journey to Somebodyhood by the power of Jesus Christ….the Son of God, the One treated as a Nobody—the stone the builders rejected—that has now become the Capstone.   Indeed, Peter proclaims,

Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

When the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary, Nobodies turn into Somebodies with a mission and purpose.

If we were to look at the Christmas Story, we see Mary—a nobody from nowhere—and yet God finds something in her (a wholehearted devotion to God) that makes her a Somebody in God’s sight.  She is the most blessed among women and will bear the Christ Child we will celebrate on Christmas and the Savior whom we worship week after week here.

Mary was a brave and devout woman in a culture that viewed women as Nobodies.  And in Acts today we see nothing less than the story of Nobodies who became Somebodies because the Ordinary men met the Extraordinary Savior!  Let’s take a look at Result #3: These Nobodies turned Somebodies have uncommon courage:

Acts 4:13 When [the religious leaders] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Bill did a great job last week of showing that God uses ordinary people!  Peter and John were two such men.  While I was away, one of the preachers I heard was talking about how the Peter we see here in Acts and the Peter from the triple denials of the night before the rooster crowed with the Crucifixion bear little resemblance to one another.  Stop and think about it:  If the Peter of the Gospel story was all we knew, the church never would have started.  He was a coward.  He was a lyin’ three times deny’n man with selective amnesia blues.  He couldn’t even recall ever knowing Jesus, amazingly enough!

Oh, but what difference happens when the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary!  Oh yes, Nobodies turn into Somebodies …and Somebodies with a mission and purpose.  The Resurrection changes everything and Peter is reinstated by the Extraordinary Risen Lord.  Suddenly this same coward becomes a man with purpose, with boldness, with total recall!  Amazingly enough.

When the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary, denying cowards become professing leaders.   And what do the religious leaders do?  Acts 4 continues,

14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered [Peter, John, and the former cripple] to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” 18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

The religious leaders’ solution?  We cannot deny it so we’ll squelch it.  We’ll threaten them and bring out that old inner coward that’s waiting to rear its head in Peter (especially since he’s the one speaking!)  We’ll silence them through intimidation!

But instead of responding by shutting up, Peter and John suddenly get a case of boldness:

19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

When the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary, Result #4 is that Nobodies are free from fear to become Somebodies with boldness and who can’t stop talking about what has happened because of God.

The Sanhedrin didn’t know what to do:

21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

Result #5 is that it results in praise of God!  Remember what Scripture says about the crippled beggar who had been healed?  Back in

Acts 3:8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Yes, when the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary, Nobodies become Somebodies filled with praise of God!  And other people take notice.

What’s your take home lesson from all this?

First, so long as you have breath in your body, God’s not done with you yet.  When the Ordinary you and the Ordinary me Meet the Extraordinary Jesus Christ, Nobodies are turned into Somebodies.  Not one of us is undervalued or unnoticed by God. If you’re lonely and feeling like you’re invisible, God says No way!  You’re Somebody important to Him!

Second, when the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary, Nobodies become Somebodies on a mission and with a purpose!  Oh, not all of us will have a famous purpose like Mary, or the apostles Peter and John, but we all have purpose to use what God has given for His and our use for His mission of spreading the Gospel and the purpose of impacting a world and ushering in the Kingdom through our witness!

Third, when the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary, denying cowardly Nobodies become professing leaders and truly Somebodies.  Fear doesn’t command us.  We have the Holy Spirit’s command over our own hearts and minds and because of Him, we can rise to lead in little and big ways!  Maybe your leadership will be to invite a family member …or a neighbor to our Christmas Eve presentation which will be a totally unique take on the traditional Christmas story.  We’ll be joined in worship by Jesus’ mother Mary who will remember along with us the story of the birth of the Savior!  Maybe your leadership will be to read the Christmas story aloud to your kids and grandkids from the Gospel of Luke.  Maybe your leadership will be to serve in GROW Plymouth or in a committee role to make Plymouth everything God desires it to be!

When the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary, Nobodies who are silent–with nothing to say– are turned into Somebodies who speak boldly and are given words by God to say!  For some of you that will be letters to the editor, for some of you, that will be rounding up your friends for an apologetics seminar in the New Year, and for some of you maybe your place of leadership is in your workplace or social media, introducing the most healing words ever spoken, the Gospel!

And finally, When the Ordinary Meets the Extraordinary, people see Nobodies (Peter, John, the crippled beggar) who have become Somebodies praising God.  This is one all of us can do.  Let’s praise God in our every moment and for every blessing and know that God can cause a world of Nobodies…even those who already think they’re Somebody…to sit up and take notice.

That’s what happens When the Ordinary man Meets the Extraordinary Savior. 

Let’s pray.

(This message was first preached at Plymouth Congregational Church of Racine, WI by Barbara Shafer on December 7, 2014)

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on December 9, 2014

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