Monday, May 21, 2018

God's Vision


Acts 2:1-12
May 20, 2018
Pentecost

We’ve been reading the later chapters
in Acts this Easter Season,
but today we flip back to the second chapter
and see how it all began. Pentecost.
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The first day of the church as we know it.
Now we might think that it was a festive occasion.
But really, the whole thing must have been terrifying.
Wind, flames, speaking and understanding different languages.

Besides the strange occurrence of this day,
the future must have been pretty scary too.
I mean we have 2 thousand years of church
to work with, rebel against, return to later.

But the disciples didn’t have anything to go on,
They had no hymnal to 
refer to no instructions book,
no mission statement or constitution. 
No years of tradition.
This was the first time for the disciples.
And this moment made it obvious that this was
going to be nothing like what they
were used to in the synagogue.
And their confusion was obvious.

Now these disciples had been with Jesus,
heard him talk, spent time with him,
eaten with him, had their feet washed by him.
They had seen him arrested and killed,
and raised from the dead.

Jesus had told them that he would eventually go away
and that he would send the Holy Spirit to them
  
And for 40 days since the resurrection,
Jesus had been roaming around with them
I’m sure, visiting them and encouraging them and
getting them ready for that moment.

But still, even in their last second with Jesus on earth
Right before this day of Pentecost,
they didn’t seem like they
completely understood the arrangement.
In chapter 1, right before he ascends, they say to Jesus:
“Lord, is this the time when YOU
will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Even at this last minute,
they wanted Jesus to continue to do all the work.
How will YOU wow us in these last days, Lord?

No, no, no, Jesus tells them, you’ve got it wrong.
MY job is done. He tells them:

YOU will receive power now
The Holy Spirit will come upon YOU.
YOU will be my witnesses in Jerusalem
and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
YOU will be the ones to carry on my church,
YOU will finish the work that I’ve begun.
This is YOUR job now.

And just to make sure that they understood
that it was THEIR work now,
Jesus ascended up, into the clouds
and left them. Alone.

How could Jesus do that?
How could Jesus leave the church in the hands
of these people with no instructions or guide book,
with no leadership seminar, no seminary class?

And these 11 people ?! -
- Their assumed leader was, Peter,
the same one who had denied Jesus in fear.
- James and John the ones who were jockeying
for position arguing over which one was the greatest.
- There was Thomas who wouldn’t believe that Christ had risen.
- And Paul who started as a persecutor of Christians.
- Jesus left the church in the hands of the 
same ones who didn’t believe that Jesus could feed the people in the field,
- The ones who tried to push the children away from Jesus.
- The ones who accused Mary after she anointed Jesus.

On that day, God gave Jesus ministry to people like that.
To people like us.
People who are confused, egotistical, insecure, cynical, tired,
burnt out, who tried too hard, and didn’t try hard enough

God gave the church to regular people like us
and for better or worse,
they made something that we are still part of today.
It would be impressive enough if you just noticed the
length of time that it’s lasted.
But we are still reading scripture, praying, 
being moved and inspired by the same stories. 
We are still surprised, lit on fire,
motivated to baptize and make disciples
help strangers and to work for justice in our communities.
Still after all this time.

On that day, God declares,
I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your 
sons and daughters will prophesy, 
and your young men will see visions, 
and your old men will dream dreams

Maybe on that day of Pentecost, on that
wonderful and scary day when they were wearing
the tongues of fire over their heads, maybe one of those
disciples had us in mind that day.

Maybe they envisioned us:
a group of people that follows, teaches about, and worships Jesus
in a big city, but not too big, behind a Tim Horton’s.
A place that welcomes everyone, that cares for children,
that has a ministry in Swahili and a food pantry.
And does all sorts of other things in Jesus name.

That dream would seem impossible then.
Where would we get the energy, the motivation,
the people, the money, who is Tim Horton? But here we are.
That’s how dreams are. One day they’re just in
your head, then someone else can see it, then it’s a reality.

So what dreams are we dreaming?
What visions are we envisioning.
What can we see the church being and doing and becoming?
Whatever our dreams for the future of the church is
We just pray just like those first disciples,
for God to fill us with the Spirit, to convert and transform us,
and to give us the courage to press on through adversity
and make those dreams a reality.

God still expects great things out of us.
God has chosen this church, in this time and place
God has chosen us to get that job done that Jesus started.

This is not just Jesus’s work anymore. This is our work too.
And we can have confidence in the Spirit 
that has brought us to this place. 
We can be sure that God is working through us.

Look at us.
This is the church that Jesus imagined and is still imagining.
This is the church that the Peter and Paul and all the Mary’s
and Phillip and Silas and Priscilla and Lydia and all the rest
struggled, and suffered, and worked to create.
This is God’s vision, still in progress and not yet done.
It is good to be this church.
It is good to be the risen body of Christ.

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