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This passage in Acts is the first miracle performed by the apostles after Pentecost. Jesus had promised his followers they would receive power from on high and the question waiting to be answered is what would they do with the power? Would they use the power for their own personal benefit or confine the witness of the power to their group alone? Or would they use the power to make a difference in the lives of others in the name of Jesus Christ?
The church is always confronted with how it would use the power that God has given us. For the church is never without power. It may not be all the power that the church wants, it may not be the kind of power the church wants, but the church always has power. What the apostle shows us is that the power of the church works best when it is used to meet human needs, particularly when those needs cannot be met anywhere else or when those needs have to settled for something less than the real need.
The current pandemic has brought the church an opportunity to meet needs. Those needs may be meals, may be a place to come get tested, may be a call or card to someone living under quarantine or may be a financial gift to help someone out of work. Peter and John did not cure everyone who was sick and neither did Jesus. But the healing they did do spoke to what was possible and there was something that could be done to meet human needs if we are willing to use the power God has given us.
The lame man that had spent his life begging outside the temple had his life changed because he was not ignored and found out God has more in store for us than simply surviving off the sympathy of others. God wants to use others to change our lives forever through the power He has given them to make a difference.
Let’s decide to be difference makers in the pandemic because we have the power, the power that God has given us to be light, hope and help in his name for his glory.
Published on Monday, May 11, 2020 @ 8:16 PM EDT
The words of the psalmist speak to us in a time of questions, challenge and difficulty. The human side of us wants to believe that we are capable of creating our destiny. Rugged American individualism is what made this nation the envy of the world because of what we created with our hands. From the Washington Memorial to Mount Rushmore, these are signs of American power and what we can do when we set our minds to do something.
Ideas about the power that humanity has to harness the environment and change it to our own will are not new as seen in the Egyptian Pyramids and the Great Wall of China. Now that is a wall. Yet the psalmist brings us back to reality and reminds us just how limited our power truly is. There are things that are beyond our control. Sometimes it is oppressors that are stronger than us. Sometimes it is natural disasters that catch us unaware. Sometimes it is the invisible that wreaks havoc by way of germs that invade our bodies and make us weak and vulnerable.
The point the psalmist is making is that there is always something. Our lives are never lived in an utopia. In those moments the psalmist offers sound advice, he tells his community to trust, to delight, to commit, to be silent and to wait. All of these things go against our natural inclination to take matters into our own hands.
Yet the psalmist sees a different path that is possible, one that brings us to a deeper abiding relationship with the Almighty. The psalmist sees how the difficulties of life may become the pressure that the Almighty uses to remold us and make us better. Better to ourselves, better to our families and community and better to God. What makes us better is we have unmasked the deceit of human ability and recognized our deep need of God. The God we are called to trust, the God we called to delight in, to commit, to be silent before and the God we are to wait upon.
Because what we truly learn about God is not in what we do but in what we see God do for us. While we were weak and without help, Christ died for us. In his death and resurrection that we celebrate each Sunday we affirm our need of God and wait upon God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. So while waiting, make sure you trust, delight, commit, be silent and see the salvation of God.
Published on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 @ 8:23 PM EDT
The book of Acts has only one post-resurrection appearance by Jesus and it occurs just prior to his ascension back to heaven. Even at the end of Jesus’ time with the disciples, they still struggle to focus upon the things that matter most. Their concerns reflected their personal desires more than the aims of God so they ask, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” Their eyes and hearts are still blind to the idea of power being determined by where someone sits as opposed to what someone does.
Jesus informs the disciples their focus is in the wrong area because it is impossible to know the time that God will choose to change the power arrangements of foreign rulers. Jesus tells them rather than being concerned about what cannot be known, to wait in the city until they are endowed with power from on high. “When the Holy Spirit comes you will have power, power to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Real power is not defined by where you sit but by what you do. When you receive the power of the Holy Spirit, go and be my witnesses. The word and work of the Lord is dependent upon witnesses who will spread the news. The news is not just the possession of Jerusalem but it is to make its way to city after city until the whole world knows the good news that sin has been defeated and that death has been robbed of its victory.
The power of the Holy Spirit comes to a group of believers who are shut in by a stay-at-home order not from Rome but from heaven. So, in an upper room they wait. While waiting they pray, they encourage one another, they renew the bonds of fellowship and commitment to a cause greater than themselves.
May we learn from their witness as we too are shut in, seeing the shut in not as inconvenience but an opportunity to receive new power from on high. The prophet did say, “They that wait on the Lord will renew their strength.”
Published on Saturday, April 25, 2020 @ 8:24 PM EDT
The single most common theme after Easter is disbelief. Whereas the disciples, the soldiers, the religious leaders all know that Jesus’ body is not in the tomb, they still refused to believe that he was alive. The soldiers accept pay to change their story. The religious leaders are willing to serve as accessories to fake news. The disciples would not believe the testimony of the women nor those Jesus appeared to on the road just outside the city.
Disbelief not belief is the major theme after Easter. It is disheartening to see and hear of how disbelief was not just the case with the enemies of Jesus but disbelief was prevalent among the friends of Jesus as well. No one seems to be willing to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses that declared they had seen Jesus.
The good news in this dark witness is that the truth of our testimony is not based upon whether others believe us or not. Our task is not to convince non-believers but to simply tell what we have seen, heard and know from our lived experiences. Our task is just to tell it.
When we tell it, we assault Satan’s kingdom and make others aware there is another way. We do not have to live in defeat and despair. We do not have to be controlled by fear. We have the power to stand up and say what we know whether others believe it or not. Each time we tell our testimony about what we know about Jesus from our own lived experience it empowers us, it deepens our faith and harnesses our commitment. Each time we tell what we know about Jesus it stirs sacred memory within us that moves us to praise when we think about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
It is the woman who Jesus cast seven devils out of. It is the woman who Jesus rescued from an abusive relationship. It is the woman who knows what it is like to have to be silent in a man’s world. This woman will not be silence and whether or not they believe her, she will not keep from telling her testimony that “I have just seen Jesus and he is alive.“ Do not allow the disbelief of others to silence you. Go now and tell what you know about Jesus because of what he has done for you.
Published on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 @ 4:53 PM EDT
The reading this week provides us the location where Jesus will celebrate the Passover for the last time with his disciples. Again, unnamed disciples are dispatched to a location without the benefit of address, only that they will find a man carrying a jar of water. Ask him where is the room where my master may eat Passover with his disciples? True to the words of Jesus, the disciples find just such a person and he shows them a larger Upper Room and the disciples finish the work of preparation there for the Passover.
The Upper Room is a key place in Christian history and theology. It is a particular location of Jesus choosing to do what he would do the last time with those who had left everything to follow him. In the Upper Room they are made aware that their time together as they have known it over the last three years was coming to an end. There is sadness in the room as well as uncertainty. What will it mean for them to have to go on without the master? How would they make it? They still have not grasped the meaning of sacrifice nor understood they were walking in the shadow of the cross. The church does a disservice if it does not remind us that we walk in the shadow of the cross. Every day is not a high day of celebration but there are days that are solemn and call for thoughtful contemplation.
There is hurt in the room because they hear that one of their own will betray the master. There seemed to always be those who lurked close by that wanted to use Jesus for their purposes. Jesus requires of us hard commitment that often stands in the way of aspirations. There are those that believe Jesus is not enough and that one has to hedge their bets for the unknown. There are always those that are willing to buy from us what God has given through grace and gifts. In those moments we need to declare "not for sale." Our integrity, character, witness, hope and affection are not for sale.
There is anger in the room. The leader of the group, Peter ,is told in front of his peers that he would deny Jesus three times. This is a smack in the face of the one who felt that he had proved himself to Jesus. Surely Jesus' words about Peter in the Upper Room lead the other disciples to have conversations about Peter and may have lowered his standing as the leader of the group. Peter seeks to rescue his honor by declaring that he is better than everyone else--"Even through all will desert you, I will not." When Jesus pushes the point, Peter pushes back that if necessary "I will die with you before I deny you." This back and forth reveals a man whose emotions are becoming frail.
In spite of the sadness, hurt and anger in the Upper Room, it is space that is transformed because Jesus is present. It is the presence of Jesus that makes the difference even in our sadness, hurt and anger. The presence of Jesus is enough to hold us together in certain as well uncertain times. May he hold you in the space that you are in now because he is present. For in times like these we need an anchor.
Published on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 @ 10:00 AM EDT