Sunday, May 13, 2018

Feast of the Ascension B, 2018: The extraordinary, transforming love of God in us

Lectionary: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47;; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

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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 Luke’s account of 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 God’s 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…” (it might help to know that the Greek word “chara,” translated as ‘joy,’ also means great gift, extraordinary power).

So, this power they are speaking about is a great gift, an extraordinary power and it manifests as joy. Is this something we followers of Christ have today? The answer is simple: Yes, if we choose it.

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 love; a love which demands we pray for those who persecute us, forgive those who harm us, and love those who hate us…a love that never gives up on the other, but stands loyally with them, bearing the light of Christ into their darkness.

This love is more powerful than anything else in creation. It is the source of all life, the answer to all sin/separation, 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.

Upon our baptism, the greatness of God’s love becomes like clothing for us, as the gospel of Luke describes it. This divine love is what people see when they see us.

God is not only dwelling within us but also all over us, visible for all to see, including us… and I think that may be what scares us. If we recognize the presence of God in ourselves, we might have to change some things we think about ourselves and others, and how we act or react in the world.

It is as author Marianne Williamson famously said: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

So where is the evidence of this extraordinary, powerful love in us today? Where are the miracles? Remember, after Christ ascended, it was the disciples who went about preaching, and teaching, healing the sick and restoring the lost.

We, who are believers now… we who are witnesses of this powerful love in the world today, are called not just to receive the gift of this love, but to use it. We have a responsibility to manifest this love as Christ did while he was on the earth, as the disciples did after Jesus’ ascension.

So I ask you, people of St, David’s, in what ways is this powerful 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. 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, 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 God’s love manifested in the people of St. David’s transformed Cullowhee, WNC – even 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 dwells in us, all around us, and emanates from us.

We have heard throughout this season of Easter that Christ abides in us, and we in him -individually and as a community of faith. Jesus also told us that, as amazing as his ministry was, we would do greater things in ours.

On this Feast of the Ascension, 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 St. David’s history, as we live into this transitional time, new life is waiting to begin in us. Like a newborn baby, we are, at this moment, new and unlimited in our potential. Each person here has within them the extraordinary power of God’s love and the community being gathered within these walls has been chosen by God in this time and 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 Godin Christ. And let’s enjoy the heck out of the time we’ve been given to be together as witnesses to the world of that Love. Amen.

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