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Archive for June, 2011

7th Sunday of Easter

June 5, 2011

First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs

Rev. Joe Hinds

Acts 1:6-14

1. Way In (“Is it time?”)

Looking off into space – or at least not where I’m going

New Orleans

As a kid, teenager

Going with my Father to Saints football games

Then after, walking with him and his buddies through he French Quarter

Looking with great interest into the clubs and bars we passed

Open doors, barkers out front calling folks in

Looking so intently at what was happening inside

I walked into a light pole

Dad and his friends had a good time with that

New York

Visits when we lived on Long Island

Walking down the streets, esp. around Central Park and Financial District

Looking up at all the tall buildings

Danger of stepping off the curb

Into an intersection where traffic signals were considered suggestions

Or roadways where so many cars, busses, taxis, trucks, and bikes where constantly whizzing past

So we find the Disciples today

On a hillside outside Jerusalem

Mt. of Olives

Looking off into space – or at least not where they were going

2. Tell The Story

Context

Ascension

40 days since Resurrection

Disciples spent the time with the risen Lord

Now is the time for what Jesus told them would happen

Paying better attention now?

He also told them about his death and resurrection

Learned to listen better by now? To believe?

Still, the Disciples were “losing” Jesus – again

Luke begins the Acts of the Apostles

“In the first book (gospel) … I wrote about all Jesus did

From the beginning (Luke 1)

To write an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us

Until he was taken up into heaven (Luke 24)

I am sending you what my Father promised

The Holy Spirit, Advocate, Pantocrator

Acts 2, Pentecost – gift of the Holy Spirit

So stay in Jerusalem until you have been clothed with power from on high

“You are witnesses of these things

Then he led them to Bethany

He lifted up his hands

He blessed them

While he was blessing them he was carried up into heaven

And they worshipped him

Returned to Jerusalem with great joy

And they were continually in the temple blessing God

Verse previous to today’s reading from the NT

John baptized you with water,

But you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now

Today’s reading

So, Lord. Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?

This was the prophecy of the Messiah, when he came

After Israel had been under different rule and occupation for generations

… Is this the time?

To be free of Roman occupation

And be restored to how it was before under King David?

But Jesus responds

That time is not for you to know – only God knows when

But you:

Will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes

And you will be my witnesses

In Jerusalem

In Judea

And Samaria

And to the ends of the earth

When he said this he was lifted up

And a cloud took him up and out of sight

While they were standing there looking …

At the last spot in the sky where they saw Jesus

Two men in white robes stood by them

Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking towards heaven?

Jesus has been taken into heaven

And he will return the same way

Then they returned to Jerusalem

From Olivet, atop the Mt. Of Olives

Near Jerusalem

A sabbath’s journey away

Meaning, a distance short enough to walk on the Sabbath

A day of rest, when no further exertion or travel was permitted

Back to Jerusalem to the room upstairs

The room where they had been staying since Jesus’ crucifixion

The room of the Last Supper

The room where the risen Lord returned after resurrection

the remaining followers of Jesus stayed in Jerusalem

Eleven disciples

Judas Iscariot was no longer among them

Along with

Certain women

Including Mary, Jesus’ mother

And his brothers

All of these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer

3. (So What?) Is it time?

The last words spoken between the Disciples and Jesus before his ascension

D: Is it time?

J:

The time is not for you to know

He didn’t answer that question

But you will receive power

And you will be my witnesses

Two realms of purpose

God is in charge of the disposition of the world

That seems fair

God, the Creator of the universe and everything in it

In God’s own time

Jesus’ followers – their purpose, our purpose

Mission

Witnesses

And not in the sense of sitting in the witness box to tell what we saw

But witnesses to the world

Beginning where we are

For the disciples – Jerusalem

For us – our home/our community

And going into the world

The known world

As the disciples know it

As we know it

Witnesses to the world

Of God’s saving love of Jesus Christ

Having seen and received that love for ourselves

Now living as witnesses to God’s love

By the way we live our lives

So that the world will know

Does that sound like just religious” talk”?

The kind of stuff you expect the preacher to say?

“Go into all the world and tell them Jesus loves them”

<dramatize that>

“Now let’s go have coffee and go home so we can get some lunch”

“I mean….’into the whole world,’ what are we supposed to do with that?”

Are we with the disciples on that one?

OK, Lord. We’ve all seen some pretty amazing things these last few years

All those miracles

Healing people

Walking on water

Feeding multitudes

Feast for hundreds from a few fish and loaves of bread

Making fine wine from a few barrels of washing water

Broken down barriers between rich and poor

Turned people’s lives around

And beat the high religious officials and politicians in games of “Stump the Chumps”

with the high

And lately …

We’ve been through Easter and all that…

After you were executed

We saw you raised from the tomb

And walk on the earth for the last 40 days

Now isn’t it time for you to do something else?

Time for you to do the next big thing?

Isn’t it time for the next chapter of the Jesus story?

Is it time to see Jesus doing the next big thing?

How about restore the kingdom?

Kick the Romans out of Jerusalem

And all the rest of our territory

And make it God’s Kingdom again?

Like back in the good old days

Is it time to watch Jesus do the next big thing?

The next part of his act?

No. Now it’s time for us.

And we are witnesses

I spend time looking at my old sermons and messages

It may be said that I spend a lot of time in this pulpit talking about our work as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world

Doing justice

Offering hospitality

Organizing ourselves around the best ways to do these things

But I believe that these are at the foundation of what Jesus calls the church (us) to do and to be

There is time for talking about theology and history

The doctrine and context of the scriptures and our faith

But today, thinking about Jesus’ final words before ascending to heaven

Because that’s important

The Last Words Before He Went To Heaven

Don’t you think that means something?

Not just, “Alright, see y’all later. Take it easy.” “Take care” “Bye”

Left the disciples/us with 2 things: Assurance and Practice

Jesus assures the Disciples/Us

That he will not abandon us – never leave us orphaned

“I am with you always, until the ends of the earth”

Promises the presence of the HS

In which we will know God’s presence and power

Practice

As Jesus lived and walked among God’s people

He devoted himself to prayer, worship, and fellowship

Many times he went away to pray

And called the disciples to follow him

He worshipped and praised God

In the temple

And in practice, before meals, and gathering with friends and the community

And he never ceased reaching out to others

Inviting them in

Even foreigners, sinners, strangers – the likes of me and you

And we see the disciples get right to it

Devoting themselves to prayer

In community with the others

Then as we follow today’s reading we will see them

Practicing collaborative leadership

Right away they restore the body of leadership

Replacing Judas

And expectantly awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit

Which we will see next Sunday

And the growing community devoted themselves to

The teaching of the apostles

Fellowship

Breaking bread

The prayers

Daily practice, 7x

Is it Time?

Yes, this is the time

To work for the kingdom that God has promised

Which is to carry out the mission that Jesus left us with

To witness to the world – beginning where we are

To his saving love

“As I have lived you,” he said

Loving God

Loving your neighbor as Yourself

Even loving your enemies

Christianity Today, May 18, 1998, “The Day We Were Left Behind”, Barbara Brown Taylor

Eleven “abandoned” disciples with nothing to show for all their following.
But in the days and years to come it would become very apparent what had happened to them.
With nothing but a promise and a prayer,
those 11 people consented to become the church,
and once they did that,
surprising things began to happen.

They began to say things that sounded like him,
and they began to do things they had never seen anyone but him do before.
They became brave and capable and wise.
Followers became leaders,
listeners became preachers,
converts became missionaries,
the healed became healers,
and disciples became apostles,
witnesses of the risen Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That probably was not the way they would have planned it.
If they had had their way,
they would probably have tied Jesus up so that he could not have gotten away from them,
so that they would have known where to find him and rely on him forever.
Only that is not how it happened.
He went away – he was taken away –
and they stood looking up toward heaven.

Then, they stopped looking up toward heaven,
looked at each other instead,
and got on with their commission of being Christ’s witnesses,
Christ’s body on earth.
To this day, too many Christians still stand staring up in heaven,
or worse yet, sit around doing little themselves,
waiting for something to happen,
waiting for Jesus to do something about the church, the world, our own lives,
when we ought to be getting on with the commission we have clearly been given, of being Christ’s witnesses,
of being Christ’s body, his hands and his feet, on earth.
We must finish the work Jesus began.

Is it time that Jesus will restore the kingdom?

That is not for us to know

But we have the power and the practice

To bring about God’s kingdom of peace

By living as Jesus teaches

So do we want to spend the rest of our days standing on the side of the hill staring off into space?

Or working for God’s peace, love, and justice in the world.

So may it be with us. Amen

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No sermon today, I was out of town.  See you next week.

Peace

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