Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Surprise

Two thousand years ago, Jesus left his disciples sitting on a mountainside with their mouths hanging open as they watched him ascend into heaven. I often think about how much trust Jesus put in his disciples as they had only moments before asked Jesus a question that leaves me wondering if they ever really got who he was and what his mission on earth was all about:

They asked him, “Jesus, is now the time that you are going to restore the kingdom of Israel?”

Why is this such a big deal? They were still looking for an earthly kingdom to be established, but Jesus always knew that his mission was to bring forth the heavenly Kingdom of God. He knew that as we seek the greater things of life and faith; we step into the place of great meaning and fulfillment in following him.

He even taught his disciples to pray for the Kingdom of God to come. You know it: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Our role as his followers is to discern what God has done in heaven and to call it forth to earth.

What do we know for sure? Heaven doesn’t include death, sadness, suffering, pain, isolation, war or poverty. We know that God reigns and that there is no challenger; the enemy has no ability to thwart God’s purposes or to interfere in Jesus’ followers lives.

So back to the mountainside. Jesus had instructed his followers to go and wait and pray in Jerusalem for the promise of his father: the Holy Spirit.

So, off they went after two angels admonished them to pick up their chins and go back to the upper room to wait and pray. And, pray they did because I believe that they were praying prayers of “Help God, what are you going to do?”

Do you ever feel that way? You think you get something but you aren’t sure that you fully “Get it.” Jesus knew that his disciples didn’t fully get it, but he wasn’t worried. Why? Because he trusted the Holy Spirit to bring forth the truth, direction and power to guide the disciples through the birthing of the New Testament Church.

It’s hard for us to imagine the immense shift that took place 10 days later when the Holy Spirit came as wind and tongues of fire, empowering all in the upper room to go into the temple courtyard and begin to speak in the 18 different languages listed in Acts 2.

Peter’s sermon is recorded. The very first words out of his mouth include a writing from the prophet Joel. This Scripture is so important because the emphasis moves from the priestly role to the role of relationships in the New Testament Church.

Peter begins to mention different roles in the family: our sons and daughters, young men, old men and even slaves. He says that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all people. It’s no longer about the Jews, or the priests, or the men, it’s about everyone! The whole world.

What happened that day? Three thousand people decided that the offer to follow Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, in the context of relationships was worth making a commitment to embrace.

The last few verses of Acts paints a picture of what life for the early Christians entailed. It ends by stating “People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.”

Are we living a lifestyle so attractive that others look at it and want what we have?
Are we so fully rooted in God’s love for us and the truth that he is for us, that he has our back, that we can move through the day confidently?
Do we have a witness that is full of invitation to know the One who created us and longs to be in relationship with us, rather than a message of sin and condemnation?

We will have opportunity Sunday, March 1st to explore more fully how we can live as a New Testament Church in the 21st century. God is calling us to remember and to trust the Holy Spirit to guide us as we make the transition in how we worship and live a lifestyle that reflects Jesus’ life! In the meantime, let’s spend time waiting and praying as we listen to Jesus’ word for how to live out the Kingdom of God on earth.

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