So let's get stuck in to the Acts and see what this holds for us:
Those around Peter, having heard from his lips the testimony that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, and believing this to be true, ask the question, "What must we do to be saved?"
The answer now, as then, is simple:
Repent: this means acknowledge and turn away fro doing wrong - it's a one-eighty degree moment.
Believe: accept that Jesus is Lord of all and commit ourselves to Him and His word (and we need to know it to keep it so this means reading our Bibles).
Be baptised: it's not a wet witness, it's a transaction, a recognition, and something that brings about a real change in us and the way we think and live.
Receive the Holy Spirit: the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit, inspires, informs and encourages us to keep God's word and live as we should. It is that whisper in the ear, that 'holy hunch' and that helping hand that lifts us in times of trouble.
So there's a simple start for us all - the way to salvation is laid out before us. And the 1 Peter passages makes it clear that this is all we have before us. This is what being a believer is all about - loving and living for God. The, at the end of it all we will be subject to judgement - measured against the mark without favour or 'mate's rates' - after all as John 3.16 says: "whoever believe in Him (Jesus) will not perish but have everlasting life."
If we look at the end of John, chapter three we find the words:
"And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s judgement.”
If you'd like a cherry on the cake, how's about Hebrews chapter five:
"And just as each person is destined to live once, the die, then be judged, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him."
We need to recognise and respond to the call on our lives and the salvation that comes through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Nothing has changed from the situation we read of in Acts to that before us today - the choices and the outcomes are clear!
Moving on to the Gospel reading we find the account of Jesus and a couple of His followers, who He joins, as they walk the road to Emmaus. I get the feeling that it's been a bit heavy today (no choice, sorry) and so will give you one 'take away' from the Gospel reading: Jesus was recognised in the breaking of bread. His body broken and blood poured out for us is made real in us when we break bread. It is in this meal that we recognise who Jesus is and find our selves strangely touched and enabled.
The next time you take the bread and drink the wine - ask God to make Himself preheat in your life and seek the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Remember that the Eucharist (the Communion) is more than a mere memorial - it is a transaction and a being made aware that we are one with God through the body and blood of Christ: and live joyfully in God's resurrection power.
Christ IS risen!
Risen Christ, you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope: strengthen us to proclaim your risen life and fill us with your peace, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this.
“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”
Those who believed what Peter said were baptised and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all
1 Peter 1.17-23
And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favourites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.
Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.
You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters.Love each other deeply with all your heart.
For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.
That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognising him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
“What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
“Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognised him. And at that moment he disappeared!
They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”
Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognised him as he was breaking the bread.
Post Communion Prayer
Living God, your Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in all his redeeming work; who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen.