Friday, May 16, 2008

Get Your Head Out of the Clouds: Sermon Acts 1:6-11

Dear God, take our minds and think through them; take our hands and feet and work through them; take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire for you. Amen

Do you ever get lost in a daydream? Maybe you are sitting somewhere, at the doctor’s office or maybe just sitting at home and you start to drift off to somewhere else. Hopefully, you are not daydreaming during church or during one of my sermons. I confess that I find myself daydreaming a lot, even during my classes. I will sit there and think about things I have to do later, places I would much rather be than that classroom, and I even dream about events in the past. Sometimes I do it at home and Angie will ask me what I am staring at and I answer nothing I was just daydreaming. Why do we daydream? I think the main reason is out of boredom. We don’t want to be where we are and so we dream about being somewhere else, someplace better. We don’t like the present situation and so we dream about being somewhere else.

The disciples in our story from Acts this morning weren’t exactly daydreaming. They had witnessed with their own eyes Jesus ascending to the clouds. They were witnesses to his resurrection and now were witnesses to his ascension. Jesus disappeared into the clouds, back to the presence of God and the disciples stared at the sky. Jesus told them that he would be coming back, did the disciples really think it would be so soon. Jesus would pop back out as soon as he left. The disciples did not want to leave that moment and so they stood there staring at the sky. A chapter of their lives was now over. For the last three years the disciples followed Jesus and engaged in ministry with Jesus. They left their families, houses, and jobs to follow Jesus and now that journey was over, but a new journey was about to begin.

Then two angels appeared in the sky where they were looking. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” In other word the angels were saying “SNAP OUT OF IT!” “You’ve got work to do and there is no time like the present to get started.” Jesus completed his work on earth, at least for the time being and now it was their turn to proclaim the good news to the poor. Jesus will return in the same way that you saw him leave, but until then you’ve got work to do.

Why did the disciples want to linger in that moment? Why did they want to stay there and daydream? We can ask ourselves that question. Why do we, as the Church, want to remain in the past daydreaming? One reason is that they wanted things to return to the way they were before. They thought that with Jesus back they would go back to what they were doing before, preaching the gospel and helping those in need. They would be the same group they once were except for one. That was comfortable, that was familiar, and that was easy. It was what they were use to. The disciples were afraid of change.

We know all about that don’t we? Change is a bad word to use in the church. We don’t want to change, we want things to remain the same. We want the status quo to remain the status quo. It is familiar, it is comfortable, and it is easy. I kept up with General Conference online this week. They broadcasted the business sessions online this week and so I sat at my computer with a pen and pad in one hand and my Book of Discipline in the other, following the debates. The more I watched the more I realize that we are a denomination afraid of change. Some of these petitions wanted to change one word in the Discipline. They wanted to change the name of the Central Conferences outside the US to Regional Conferences. Some believed that this would make more sense and give a better definition to what those conferences are. People fought tooth and nail over changing one word. We fear change. When someone wants to change the way the church does things often we stick our fingers in our ears and shout “I can’t hear you. La La La” Sometimes change is good and sometimes change is bad, but the inevitable truth is that change is inevitable. Time marches on.

I have heard several of you reminisce about the way things use to be in this church. I have heard you talk about times when the pews were filled and laughter of children was heard echoing from these walls. I have heard many of you say that you want things to return to those days; those days when you had to get here early to get a seat. We long for the good ole days, but we can’t go back to those days. We cannot go back to the way things were because what is in the past is just that, past. There are many of us who do not want things to change, we, like the disciples, want things to return to the way things were before.

God doesn’t work that way. God does not resuscitate the past, but resurrects for the future. God makes all things new, not all things like they were before. God does not look back into the past, but is always looking forward into the present and the future, into what is now and what will be in the future. Remember what happen to Lot’s wife. God had a new future for Lot and his family, but warned him not to look back at the past. Lot’s wife didn’t listen. The people that were healed by Jesus did not cling to the past, but looked toward a new and bright future. At the Resurrection, Jesus told Mary not to hold on to her because things were not the same anymore. The past is past and the future is ahead and full of hope.

We cannot go back to the way things were at this church. However, there is good news. The future that God has in store for us is so much better that what was in the past. Christ will return to us in the same way that he ascended to the Father and that is with power, grace, and glory. We have promises from God, promises of peace that will cover the Earth. The tools of war and destruction will become the tools of creation and growing. These are promises for the future, but as Jesus told the disciples, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” We don’t know when those things will come about, but we hope in them and we pray for them.

These are not the only promises that God has for us. God has promises for our church as well. Things can be better than they were in the past. These pews can be filled again with new families and the laughter of new children. We can reach out to a new generation of seekers and develop a new generation of Disciples of Christ.

However, this requires something of us. We have to be the witnesses to the good news of Christ. Before he ascended he commanded the disciples to witness the good news they had seen and heard to all corners of the earth. Their turn is over it is now our turn to be those witness, but we are not alone. Another promise is that the Holy Spirit is with us and guides us in what do and what we say. So, with the power of God through the Holy Spirit we have to be witnesses in Prospect, Elkton, Pulaski, and all over Giles County, but not only there, but also all over the world. We are now the witnesses not to the way things were in the past, but the hope we have in God’s promises for the future. That is the mission of the church, to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

We cannot spend our lives as Christians with our heads in the clouds, wishing for the past to come back again. We also cannot spend our time longing for the kingdom of God to come upon the earth and for Jesus to return. We hope in that promise, but until them we have work to do. We have people to help, we have stories to tell, we have people to feed, and the homeless to give shelter. Let us not daydream our lives away, but snap out of it and work for the kingdom of God.

Let us pray…

Grant, O Lord,

that what has been said with our lips we may believe in our hearts,

and that what we believe in our hearts we may practice in our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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