Welcome to Wednesday’s Podcast. Our reading today is Acts 2:22-36
Today we’ll focus on verses 32-33:
God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
BBC Breakfast Presenter Dan Walker tweeted this on Monday:-
‘After any political interview:
Shouty tweets from all corners.
Accused of left / right bias.
Accused of being clearly Pro Brexit
And obviously a remoaner.
Accused of being a ‘bully’ and ‘too soft’ at the same time.
We live in toxic times.
Everyone is angry.
Have a lovely Monday.’
Over the past few weeks during our Sunday teaching series STC we’ve been thinking about ‘Challenging times’ – the season our nation is in. Dan Walker’s comment – ‘everyone is angry’ rings true – why? Why is there are a rise in anger?
One reason is algorithms.
The news, whether it be TV, radio or print, has always had bias, that’s obvious. However, given that many of us receive news or our general sense of what is going on in the world through social media whether it be via news outlets, culture makers or social media influencers – increasingly our view of the world is being shaped by social media.
This is where it gets sinister and we need to be really wise. For example, I use Instagram and Twitter – both of those platforms use sophisticated algorithms to make sure I see and view more of what their clever algorithms think I want to see. It has a name and it’s called confirmation bias. This means that despite our world becoming more global, my news feed is becoming more narrow, focused and at times, tribal.
This means that debate and discussion get narrower – more polarised – as we generally only really see what we agree with. Amazon, Spotify, Netflix and the like all use sophisticated algorithms to provide me / you with the latest TV show or product that they think we’ll like and encourage us to watch it. Apparently when using Facebook & Instagram I’m actually no longer scrolling through my friends; the app, or the sophisticated algorithms are channelling, sorting, filtering on my behalf – showing me the people they think I should see. It’s actually pretty scary. As one former Facebook Executive once said: ‘God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains…’
We’re getting angry because we’re more tribal. In a world of over communication – ironically we’re seemingly more polarised and more disconnected.
So, how do we – the people who St Paul calls in Philippians to ‘shine like stars in a crooked and depraved generation’ – how do we respond?
Peter’s incredible sermon at Pentecost has something to tell us about how we navigate the world dominated by fake news and filtered stories.
Firstly, Peter affirms that God is in control. ‘This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan…’ by quoting scriptures from Joel, the Psalms – he’s pointing out that God had planned all the events around Jesus’ death. He has a plan. He is in control. Our current 24 news cycle – competing toxic narrative produces fear. Fear drives us to be glued to our smart phones or our TVs for the latest announcement or breakthrough. No, we heed Peter’s wisdom – God is in control.
It’s doubly important in times of challenge that we follow the advice of the Psalmist in Psalm 61: ‘lead me to the rock that is higher than I’ – the people of God throughout the ages have lived under times of political confusion. Today’s political turmoil maybe new for us but it’s not for God. If our view of the world comes from Social Media or BBC News 24 – while informative – we must balance all that with what we believe God says of us and the world around us. In times of personal challenge and national uncertainty, we must ask the question: how loud is God’s voice in my life? In the life of my community? I’m always challenged when I hear people say ‘we must live the lifestyle of Jesus’ – we talked about this yesterday. Jesus spent time alone – with God. Do I? Am I retreating, taking time out of the hectic schedule of life – to be with Jesus? This could be the walk to work. Could be a walk around the city centre on a lunch break. In times of challenge – we must be proactive. It is vital that the scriptures – which the American Pastor Bill Johnson says is Jesus in Print – are part of our everyday existence. His words, his life, filling our hearts and minds – shaping us. Not the culture.
Secondly, Peter states in verse 32 ‘God raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it…’
It’s important in times of challenge to stand on your story – your testimony. That’s deeply personal to you, a family or a community. No one can take it away. Peter’s sophisticated arguments from history, from scripture, from prophecy, even citing Israel’s beloved King David. Finally he says – we have seen it. Think back on your story – your life – where has God turned up in moments of uncertainly and brought his peace. Think on that. Write it down. Share it. Celebrate it. When non peaceful thoughts come flooding in, as they will, stand on your story – you are a witness to God’s activity in your life.
Father, I pray we may stand firm this day – may we look to you and walk in such an incredible peace that we do indeed point to you and bear witness to your power.
READING: Acts 2:22-36
‘Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:
‘“I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.”
‘Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
‘“The Lord said to my Lord:
‘Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.’”
‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’