given on April 11, 2010
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One week ago we met to celebrate Easter. Since that morning, we have returned to our daily routines, finished the leftovers, and had a delightful Spring week.
I doubt any one of us have sat down and cried because Jesus died. I doubt any one of us was afraid to go out in the community for fear of being arrested, beaten, and executed.
In fact, we have had it fairly easy in comparison to that time and day in history. We witnessed spring break out in full regalia with the trees leafing out, the blooms shining in the sunshine, and the winds finally drying out the winter mud.
Spring calls us to start again. Spring reflects that life renews and continues despite the dark, dreary days of a long, hard winter. The Apostles were not dealing with the seasons that same week thousands of years ago, but they were discovering that God’s call could not be ignored.
Today’s scripture, which is still following the lectionary, continues the story. The Apostles were called–by Jesus himself not just in spirit, but in body—to get back to work. The Great Commission, as recorded in Matthew, was a huge job, but the Apostles did not give up and say now way. Instead, they chose to take the challenge and show us the way.
What happened next was predictable, but the outcome was not. The work, to make disciples of Christ, resumed just like our lives resumed last Monday, like life returns in the spring. Still it was not easy. The message, to love one another, was messing things up for all the religious leaders. They were feeling threatened, uncomfortable, and out of control.
What did they do with the challenge? They decided to gather up these Disciples of Christ and get the control back. Did it work?
The record in the Bible, especially the one in Luke’s Acts, tells us no, it did not work. Looking at Acts, today’s scripture outlines the challenge that the Sanhedrin, the ruling order of priests (similar to our Annual Conference). Interestingly enough, by looking further into the scripture, one of the Sanhedrin stood up and challenged the leaders:
34But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
40His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
Remember, the Apostles did not go out without proper preparation. After all they had been in intensive training for three years. Jesus had them walking all over the countryside, lecturing, modeling, and advising them what they needed to do in order to teach about the New Covenant.
Not only had they been in training, Jesus came back one more time to give them the final tool they needed: the Holy Spirit. Look at the scripture in John (on the back of the bulletin). The report right there in chapter 29, verses 19-23:
21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Spring calls us back to the fields. Spring calls us to renew our faith. Spring calls us to join the Apostles as they returned to teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
That call to action did not come without challenges. The same thing happens in our lives. We do not live in a perfect world, the challenges continue; but with God on our side, who can be against us. Besides, we also have the Holy Spirit working within us. God has prepared us.
Accept the call to resume God’s work. Find out what gifts you have and how to use them. I know when you took your first job the tasks were not easy. Yet, you did not give up. You went to the extra effort to figure out what you needed to do. When a challenge came up, you figured out a way to manage it. True, you had to identify the challenge and work on it a bit, but in the end you managed it. You continued the work.
Spring calls us into action, but Spring stills hands out its share of challenges—allergies, wind, more rain, etc—but we continue. Lent is over, Easter has assured us that we can resume action. We know that the challenges will be there and be difficult, but with the love of God and our love for one another, we can handle the challenge and continue our work as one of Christ’s disciples.
We may have tried to ignore your call, but we know it is time for us to take the challenge and follow. Help us to find where our gifts are and what you want us to do with them. Help us to hear you in your words, in our hearts, and even in the wind. We can hear your call, and we can handle the challenges not only in the Spring, but through all the seasons. –Amen