Sunday, May 20, 2012

Feast of the Ascension (transf), 2012: The power that is in us

Lectionary: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

En el nombre del Dios, Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

All of our Scripture readings today speak to us of power - the power of God given to those who believe. In the story from Acts we hear Jesus last words on earth: "… But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you."

In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of “the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.” In the Gospel from Luke, as Jesus was ascending into glory, he blessed his followers, and they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy…” (remembering from last week that the Greek word “chara” being translated as ‘joy’ means: great gift, extraordinary power).

So, what is this power they are speaking about and is it something we have today? The answer is simple: The power they speak of is Love, and yes, it is as available to us today as it was then.

We have been baptized by water. Some of us have also been baptized by the Holy Spirit. All that takes is our consent, then willingness to wait while God acts. Then, when we have been clothed by the power by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the greatness of that is truly immeasurable, because it is eternal power – it is the Love of God.

I won’t repeat what I wrote in my newsletter article (you can read that on our website or on my blog), but what I said there was: when Jesus ascended into heaven, he handed over the continuing work of reconciliation to us – the church, the body of Christ in the world. Knowing full well the cost of love, Jesus gave us the power of his own Love – the same Love that he demonstrated in his life and ministry and commanded us to do as well. The Love that demands we pray for those who persecute us, forgive those who harm us, and love those who hate us…that is, stand loyally by them, being light that shines in their darkness.

This love is more powerful than anything else in creation. It is the source of all life, the answer to all sin, and the hope of the world. This love that we have been given can transform lives, heal bodies, move mountains, and renew the face of the earth.

So where is the evidence of this extraordinary, powerful love in us today? Either we believe what Jesus said or we don’t. Either we are witnesses of this love, which is what the body of Christ is called to be, or we’re not.

Where are the miracles in our world today? Remember, after Christ ascended, it was the disciples who went about preaching, and teaching, and healing the sick, and restoring the lost.

We, who are believers now… we who are witnesses of the Love of God in Christ, are called not just to receive the gift of this love, but to use it. We have a responsibility as believers, to manifest this love as Christ did while he was on the earth, as the disciples did after Jesus ascended and handed over this ministry to them.

So I ask you, people of Redeemer, in what ways is this power, this Love, being manifest in and through us today? Are we models of forgiveness in a sin-filled world? Are we icons of hope to the hopeless? …Light to those trapped in darkness? …comfort to the suffering? …welcomers of the exiled, the reviled, the hated?

It’s so easy for the church to get distracted from our mission, but the mission is simple: Be the extraordinary, powerful, transforming Love of God in the world. That’s it.

Make known this amazing Love to those who don’t know it, or have forgotten it, or had it stolen from them by “good Christian folk” who had it all wrong. Be Love in the face of hate and ridicule. Stand humbly in the presence of earthly power and watch as the Source of true power acts through the weak, the least, and the last – us. Detach from anger, from being right, and from the rewards of this world - and seek only the Love that makes no sense – the Love that forgives all, welcomes all, and judges none.

When the generations to come look back on our part of this ongoing narrative, what will be the story they tell about us? Will they marvel at how the power of our love changed Shelby and Cleveland County – even the world?

Or will they shake their heads and click their tongues, wondering why we wasted so much time and energy tending to our buildings and building our programs, and so little time building the kingdom of God…which, by the way, (the kingdom of God) begins within us, then transforms the world around us, just as the proclamation of the Good News began in Jerusalem, then reached all of the nations of the world.

The greatest, most powerful thing in the whole world is the same now as it was when creation was being spoken into being: Love. And this love has been given to us as a gift from the Creator of the universe. More amazingly, it is God (who is Love) who dwells in us.

We know, at least we profess, that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. And we have heard during this season of Easter that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and that Christ abides in us, and we in him. That divine presence is in us – in our very bodies and in the body of our community.

What if we claimed this as true? What if we lived as if the Holy Spirit of God, present within us as individuals and as a community, were acting powerfully on the world today?

Remember, Jesus told us that, as amazing as his ministry was, we would do greater things in ours. Today we are being challenged to own the extraordinary, powerful, love already in us and use it to heal the world around us, to reconcile that world back to God.

In this moment in our history, there are more new members at Redeemer than continuing ones. The time of our Great Wounding is over and new birth, new life has begun in us. We are a ‘baby church’ – new and unlimited in our potential. Each one here has within them the extraordinary power of God’s love and the community being gathered within these walls has been chosen by God because the expression of God’s love in us is just what is needed in this time and in this place to do the work God has for us to do.

So, let’s do it. Let’s be the extraordinary, powerful, transforming Love of God. And let’s enjoy the heck out of the time we’ve been given to be together as witnesses of that Love.

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