Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
How many times have you been “cut to the heart” by a sermon? In my late teens I started going to a local URC and the minister’s words, Sunday by Sunday, spoke to me. It was like he was speaking directly to me. This was no dry, theoretical preaching, but preaching with the Spirit’s fire and relevance. It opened my spiritual eyes to the saving love of Jesus and drew me into a relationship with God that I would never have thought possible, even a few months before.
Preaching has had a bad press recently. This is because it is often seen as either dry and boring or condemning. Even outside the Church people are heard to say “don’t you preach at me!”, which usually means that they are being told something that they disagree with. Peter’s preaching in Acts was challenging but certainly not boring, it demanded a response. The people gathered around had witnessed a move of the Holy Spirit and wanted to know what it was all about. Peter, inspired by the same Spirit, helped them to understand, using the Bible in ways that they would relate to. His preaching always pointed to Jesus and his saving grace. This cut them to the heart.
That power, the Spirit’s power, is still available to us today. When people ask about our faith, either at work, at home, or over a coffee, we can draw on the same source as Peter did to help our friends and family understand the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is about being open to the Spirit’s prompting and living life in close relationship with God, through prayer. It is also about expecting the unexpected! We are often scared to share our faith, even when someone has genuinely enquired. Take courage that the Spirit is with you and will give you the right words for the person in front of you because God knows what they need to hear. If you are a preacher, and trusted by the Church to preach the Good News, then again, allow the Holy Spirit to inspire your words and preach expecting a response, even being “cut to the heart”.
Come, Holy Spirit, come fill us with the joy of your presence. Come, Holy Spirit, come draw us closer to our Saviour, Jesus Come, Holy Spirit, come give us the words we need to tell others. Come, Holy Spirit, come strengthen us to share your love. Come, Holy Spirit, come Amen.
The Revd Stuart Nixon Pioneer Minister, MediaCItyUk Church, Salford.