Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Promise kept Acts 2:1-21 John 15:26-27; 16:4-15

On Pentecost God poured out a promise on Jesus' followers. Jesus, and prophets before him, spoke of God acting in the lives of the faithful. A part of me asks, "What is it, what is this promised outpouring from God?" The scripture says it 's the Holy Spirit, fire, the Advocate, power from on high. Jesus promised his friends a gift that would enable them to carry on his ministry through them and with them in the world.

  • The prophet Joel put it this way, "...it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon allflesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dreamdreams, your young men shall see visions." Joel 2:28
  • John spoke prophetically of Jesus pouring out the Spirit saying, "I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Matthew 3:11
  • Jesus told his friends of the struggles they would face on his behalf encouraging them, "When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit." Mark 13:11 NRSV
  • The night of the last supper Jesus told his friends gathered in the upper room, "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. John 15:26 NRSV
  • After rising from the dead and just before return to heaven Jesus said, "And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." Luke 24:49 NIV

The ministry Jesus sent his friends out into the world to complete is our mission as church today. We go out not alone, but with God present, poured out into our lives. One of the most important promises we recieve on this earth is the promise of God's presence. As a believer these words of promise give me great hope; because God goes with me.

Looking back modern believers aren't alone in that hope. For Marting Luther King jr that promise to never be alone appeared to give him hope and strength in the face of obstacles. In a sermon entitled, Unfulfilled Dreams delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, on March 3, 1968, King spoke with confidence in God's presence with him. (Please note the words in paranthesis were the response from the congregation)

It will be dark sometimes, and it will be dismal and trying, and tribulations will come. But if you have faith in the God that I’m talking about this morning, it doesn’t matter. (Yes) For you can stand up amid the storms. And I say it to you out of experience this morning, yes, I’ve seen the lightning flash. (Yes, sir) I’ve heard the thunder roll. (Yes) I’ve felt sin-breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul. But I heard the voice of Jesus, saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, (Yes, sir) never to leave me alone. (Thank you, Jesus) No, never alone. No, never alone. He promised never to leave me. Never to leave me alone. (Glory to God)

King found reason to hope and strength to press on. May all who believe in Christ be so boldly strengthened by his power that we can go into the world just as he did with power and strength.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ascension 2009 Luke 24:44-53

Our reading today is about Jesus' return to heaven. In his life and ministry the boundary between heaven and earth started to break down. He taught about God's kingdom not as a place but as a way of life in which justice and love matter.

Jesus didn't stay on earth very long. Just 33 years was all he needed. And for the most part what we know about Jesus happened in just the last three years of his life here on earth.

Time moves all on its own. The older I get the more I've realized just how much faster time moves on even when were aren't ready. In all of our lives there are moments, life changing events, that happen in just a blink in time. Sometimes life changes happen so fast that we humans only later on, a ways down the road, get a chance to digest them. Reading Luke 24:44-53 I'm reminded of just how fast things happened to and for Jesus and his friends and just how much time it still takes the church to understand what Jesus was doing and saying.

In 3 years time Jesus went from being a carpenter to a teacher and preacher. His ministry touched thousands but it only lasted for just a few years in space and time. The events that changed us the most, just Cross and rising, happened in 3 days of His time on earth.

Part of us says that Jesus is gone. We look at the world and we see that evil is so powerful and that justice and righteousness seem like a dream and not like a strong and overflowing waterfall. But the part of us that lives by faith and hope knows full well that Jesus is still here.

The cross and the empty tomb transformed death and life. The old order of living and dying seemed to just be the way things would always be. God was on the move, something was going to change. Just as Jesus, risen from the dead, was about to return to heaven; back to his place with the Father, he told his followers to wait for another move by God.

Jesus directed them forward, but didn't send them into a new ministry yet,

repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all
nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And
see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city
until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24 NIV)
The 11 who'd walked with Jesus alive again were surely still caught in awe as he told them to stay put in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit's arrival. They'd known grief and now they were living in joy. Jesus rose and all the old rules about death and life were put aside. God is still remaking the world the same way today

Monday, May 11, 2009

Give it away and you'll be fulfilled John 15:9-17

Looking through the lens of Jesus' Words in John 15 we see heaven's vision of a complete life. A full life is totally given away; offered completely and without reservation for the sake of others. We seek self-fulfillment and Jesus instead says that if we want to be fulfilled just give it all away for the good of others.

So how do we do it? How do we give our lives away?

1) All at once.
Jesus' words, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13) are reminders for us of what God wants for us and from us. Look around and you'll find Jesus words on memorials and tombstones. Think for a short while and you can no doubt remember soldiers, police offices, firefighters, and others who gave their lives for the sake of others. Jesus meant what he said: to give your life up for another is to love that person totally. He wasn't speaking idly. He was inviting people to give up everything. We honor those who have offered everything for us knowing that their sacrifice is not trivial, most especially in heaven's eyes.

2) Everyday
Jesus' words in John 15:9-12 have been heard at many weddings,

"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

Jesus invites us to love not for our own sake but for the sake of others. Self-giving love happens in marriages, family, parenthood, church life, and even more relationships. Jesus invites us to give everything away for the sake of others in order that we might experience the fulfillment of his love. We worry about comfort in this life and Jesus is inviting all of us to the fullness of joy in loving and serving him.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What prevents you from Abiding in Jesus Acts 8:26-40; John 1:1-8

Jesus says anyone who hopes for a fruitful life must must abide in him. He uses the image of a vine to explain the complete connection required in order for our lives to bear fruit. Jesus is talking about a total connection where the identity of the vine and the small part of the vine are indistinguishible.

Human natures leads us to resist God. We push for independence at every turn. Jesus says abide in him and thrive; try to live alone and you'll wither up. There's no easy way arround the law here. God's offering us life and we willfully choose to cut ourselves off from him.

Jesus knows that in order for us to survive we, just like a small part of a plant, must remain connected to the true vine. We can survive only as long as our lives are connected to life of the vine. Living connected with Jesus requires total dependence, a complete connection, to him and to his Word.

Jesus is inviting us to grow in a relationship that doesn't depended on a human schedule but on the will of the Holy Spirit. To be part of the vine is more than just our choice. Instead we grow as the Spirit leads us. The question that the Eunich ask Philip in Acts 8 has real traction:

Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. Acts8:35-38
The church today needs to learn again this ancient lesson. The Holy Spirit can move faster than we can connecting people into the true vine. When we interfere with someones connection to the Jesus Christ we miss the gift that Jesus is offering us in the body of Christ.