Tag: luke 24:44-53

Just a Closer Walk with Thee

Sermon, Sunday May 13, 2018 Ascension Sunday

Walking people. Lifestyle.

St Petri

 Luke 24:44-53 

44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”, that old spiritual from so long ago, penned by Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson expressed the faith and the need we have.

Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be

I am weak but Thou art strong
Jesus keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee

But how do you get it? How do you get close to God and walk with Jesus more closely? Why would you pray this and seek this closeness anyway? Maybe those people up on the hill who saw him go into the air might have something to say this …

This Ascension moment is a final departure. Final departures are often very hard. A part of us is being removed, not by surgeon’s knife, but by grief’s affect.

These people lived in the presence of a great person who marked their character and shifted their jobs, families, understanding and hopes forever.

But Instead of being lost in heart-felt grief because the loss of their friend and mentor, they are charged up by his departure! They move from aimlessness and confusion and the temptation to give up and scatter, to great joy and sticking together in praise of God! They somehow seem to believe that they indeed now have “a closer walk with thee”!

What would make you glad at the departure of a loved one? Either you are glad the person’s suffering is over, or, you found great pain and discomfort in their presence and now that pain and discomfort is over, or, the person imparted a great inheritance that will help you greatly.

There is no hint that any of those gathered up on the hill were full of joy because Jesus’ suffering was finally over. Yes, he suffered alright. They saw it and felt it and grieved for him, but then he appeared and showed he had triumphed over all of that. So, they are not joyful because his suffering is ended.

There is no hint that they are glad the guy is finally gone because of any ill-treatment or injustice done to them. So that can’t be the reason for the praise and joy.

It has to be that they are full of joyful words about their God and wanting to be together because they have recognised the full extent of the inheritance he has left them! It is an inheritance better than anything money can buy.

The inheritance is his presence still; it is a possible “ closer walk with thee”; not because they earned it or achieved it or paid for it but because he simply gave it.

The gift of his loving presence always is a free gift. It is not that they have to find a way to be close to him but that he now become close to them and promises to remain so.  “I am with you always to the very end of the age”. “Wherever even two or three of you are gathered together in my name, I am there …”.

But we have trouble with this. Someone has said that we Christians are often “practical atheists”. That is, we say we believe in Jesus but practically live as if he is not really present – as if we have to manufacture a ‘closer walk with thee”; as if he went into that cloud never to return.

Funny how we seem to believe that “we are only as close to God as we choose to be”, as I read on a church website this week. It is as if we have to try and make ‘a closer walk with thee’ happen by our making, our will, our goodness. We have to reach out to him and win him closer.

As a result, when it comes to making a life for ourselves, making decisions, setting direction as a parent, making decisions about marriage, family, business, and all else, we PRACTICALLY rely on ourselves more than the very-present person and word of Jesus.

This all goes OK, we think, until one or two of four things happens: Money gets tight, health breaks down, death breaks in or someone calls our reputation is threatened.

Then the practical atheists become divine prayers! We sing that song!

Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be

We call out the Jesus asking him to help us. We may even make a bargain or two with him. We might even clean up our act and stop doing some things or take on some spiritual things just to make sure God comes through…..for a while, until it all leaks out of our hearts and we carry on as practical atheists.

What’s Jesus’ solution to our leakage problem?! What will enable us to have a closer walk with thee?

How will he respond when we call out

Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea

Will he say, “you are only as close to God as you choose to be”, so choose! You make it happen, you do it!

No way. We are only as close to God because he chooses to be close to us – VERY CLOSE, UNSHAKABLY CLOSE!

It is HIS reaching out to me that makes me “close to thee” not me.

Friend, there is no need to plead, no need to beg, to steal his closeness. The only need is to trust this present ascended Jesus and his promise to be close to you near and far, here and there, there and then.

What does he give to help us live in his closeness? What will he give us when we are so close that enables us to live with all the confidence, hope and love for which we long?

Three things which are really the same person.

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures

My word will sustain you and make you all you need to be, says the Ascended Jesus. My word will shape you, help you trust my presence any day of the week, any room in the house, any place in the community. I will keep showing you who I am and what your life really is in me.

but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high

You will receive spiritual power that will transform your body, your mind and your spirit daily for the task of speaking and doing what you saw and heard me do and say.

….he lifted up his hands and blessed them.

My blessing, empowering, loving, calling, shaping hands will never cease. They are the wounded hands that bless you. By my wounded hands you are blessed, you are healed – everyday.

Friends, let’s bless each other into;

  • Understand the Scriptures in the joy and sorrow, in the confusion and clarity of life..
  • Receive the Spirit when you feel dead and when you know you are alive
  • Be blessed and bless others – and never stop both. It is his presence, his breath, his wounded hands blessing you to be healing, breathing, moving blessing to the wounded, the broken and the prideful.

His final departure was not final. Neither will yours ever be.

His Ascension brings his presence.

He never left you. He never will.

Praise him with every breath you speak, every day at work, every time with family, every time you use his gifts he has given, with everything you own.

Speak good words of him to others.

We do this together as his church and he is here.

Jesus, move us from self to you; from confusion to you, from death to you, from practical atheism to you in all the fullness of your presence.

Amen

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Pray: Spirit of Jesus, speak, for your servant is listening.

Read the text out loud slowly taking note of who says and does what, and noting questions that come of where your mind dwells/wonders as you go.

Embedded in this simple account of this seeming final departure of Jesus are things that say it is not. This is not Jesus final departure but his beginning arrival in a new way.

  1. Everything is fulfilled. This is the whole biblical story coming to its full fruition. The Messiah is taking up his everlasting reign. All the promises of the Old Testament have been fully kept by God in his Son, Jesus and Jesus will live after this day – always.
  2.  You are witnesses. So, the show goes on. The story is not finished. There is no end here. This is the beginning of the rest of God’s work, and these ordinary folks are involved. They are named one thing – “Witnesses”. They have the calling to bear witness to what they have see and heard.
  3. They will not and cannot do this under their own human power. This new beginning and their calling in it with Jesus can only be done with gift he promises to send soon – the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day (50 days away). Jesus will remain present.
  4.  The last thing they hear and see is a word of blessing from Jesus and his raised wounded hands and rising wounded body and feet over them. The tense of the Greek verb here is not final. it is ongoing. Jesus’ blessing does not come to an end. it goes on. it is still going for these 12 people and for those to whom they bear witness – your and me

I suggest that this is not a sign of Divine Absence in your life but a sign of Divine presence in your life and that jesus is not some spirit floating around the clouds somewhere playing a harp sitting on a cloud, or even some spiritual force that you have to find by some means – be it emotions, or songs or rituals or right therology and anything else. Jesus remains human for humans. The last thing he is is human. The last thing he does is speak human words for humans to hear. We have a human Saviour still. He has not morphed into some spiritual force in our lives. “This same jesus whom you saw go into the skies will return the same”.

What does this mean for you?

The Lutheran community, like all mainline communities has this belief and it shapes their worship life. Why is it that Lutheran can put such a high premium on the gifts of baptism and holy communion and the words of scripture formed into a pattern or rhythm done over and over again? because Jesus is present (where two or three are gathered in his name) even physically and through normal, everyday physical means. When that person is baptised it is Jesus, the living Word present and active using water to discharge his spiritual filling of that new Christian. When that brad and wine is eaten and drunk, it is his body and his blood for his forgiveness and his life now. That is why Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic worship is like it is. it is all based on the belief that Jesus is till present and that the gift of the Spirit is given by him through ordinary means – human words, humans hands, humans bread wine, bodies, prayers songs and etc …

What do you make of all of this? Does this challenge you or comfort you or both?

It is absolutely no problem for me to believe that I partake of Jesus physical body in that bread and his blood by that wine. it is still bread and wine but his word spoken with it make it spiritual and real and healing and life-giving. How about you?

As for who makes a ‘closer walk with thee’ really happen, it is not me. He does. He remains present when he does not have to. He draws close when he has every right to leave me for dead. He loves first, he blesses first, he calls first, he sends me first. I don’t earn it, achieve it, deserve it and even understand it, but he understands these 12 individuals and those who came after them (you!).

We are only as close to God because he chooses to be close to us”.

What do you make of that?

As for our working life, marriage life, relationships and skills, they all count here too. He calls these ordinary people into his global kingdom work of bearing witness and promises to give them the words to say and the places to be. The Book of Acts is the outworking of his promises and it is still going on through all of us today. So we Christians never ‘work for the weekend’, we work in Jesus when we are at work and our work is a gift from him. How I treat my partner is how I treat Jesus and reflective of how he treats me. It all counts and it all bears witness – good or bad.

But yet, we get  guilty about our failing to witness well. Not to worry, there is always another day tomorrow and a forgiving, life-giving ascended Jesus calling us, sending us, trusting us with his words and story.

Pray

I am weak but Thou art strong
Jesus keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee

 

Where’s Jesus?

Sermon, Ascension Day
May 27th, 2015
St Petri

Luke 24:44-53
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

PRAY: Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we may know you better (Ephesians 1:17-18)

There was this old 90’s movie starring the American funny man, Billy Crystal, called “City Slickers.” Billy played a bored middle aged baby boomer. He is fed up with his job, generally grumpy and feels locked into an endlessly predictable and unhappy life that will be this way until he finally dies – which will be a relief because the boredom and grumpiness will be over! Ever met anyone like this? Ever been like that yourself?

He sells radio advertising time. He has couple of school aged kids. One day he visits his son’s grade 4 class. The teacher has lined up lots of Dads to come in and tell the kids about each of their occupations. This worried and unhappy man starts out quietly – quite boring….. only to suddenly let loose a long and depressing deadpan monologue that bewilders these youngsters:

  • “Value this time in your life, kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices. It goes by fast.
  • When you’re a teenager, you think you can do anything and you do. Your twenties are a blur.
  • Thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money, and you think to yourself, “What happened to my twenties?”
  • Forties, you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud, one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother.
  • Fifties, you have a minor surgery — you’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery.
  • Sixties, you’ll have a major surgery, the music is still loud, but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway.
  • Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale. You start eating dinner at 2:00 in the afternoon, you have lunch around 10:00, breakfast the night before, spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate soft yogurt and muttering, “How come the kids don’t call? How come the kids don’t call?”
  • The eighties, you’ll have a major stroke, and you end up babbling with some Jamaican nurse who your wife can’t stand, but who you call mama.

Crystal then looks at the young kids and asks, “Any questions?”

Monologue taken from Billy Crystal in the movie “City Slickers.”

Any questions about this kind of life?! Yes!

Switch now to another man in front of a class of students, but not in a school building.

This man is on a hill – he is a younger man and his is full of life. He is scarred but joy-filled, once defeated but now triumphant. He is open, loving and engaging and it is his final Word to those who have lived the journey with him. They hang on every word he speaks. They love him because he loves them and they know it.

This is Jesus before he “departs”.

Now at first look, it seems that Jesus is leaving the planet. He is taken from his disciples into the clouds. On face value it seems the last word is that Jesus has left the world and left his disciples there alone. It has been that way and will stay that way until he comes back.

But there are three giveaway signs that call out to us Christians that there is much more to this seeming departure.

This is no departure if a hero but an infilling of his presence in a new way!

How can you trust this? Three things tell you that Jesus has not “left your building”, and that this life with all its decisions, directions and doubts is NOT totally “all on you”.

1. CLOUD
Jesus ascends and is hidden in a cloud, says Luke (Acts 1:9). Just like in the OT where God dwelt with his people on mount Sinai in the “glory cloud” and in the tabernacle – the cloud is a sign of God’s presence not his absence. Jesus is not leaving but is being present in a different way – a much more complete way.

2. BLESSING
To bring that same truth home Luke tells us that Jesus is doing something as he is moving – Jesus is blessing his people as he ascends – he is blessing them. The God-given gift in which Jesus ascends; the last word that he speaks that changes the human heart is blessing. Not good bye. Or “I’ll be back” or all the best as you figure out how to be good enough or do enough and be enough to please me, but “Blessing you…”.

And the tense of the Greek words are never ending present. “The Lord is blessing you and will bless you forever, the Lord is making his face to shine upon you and will forever, the Lord is looking with favour upon you, and will forever….”

3. JOY FILLED PEOPLE
These students of the Master are jumping for joy. Their inner being is on fire. They know his love, his peace in a Holy Spirit driven way. They are unstoppable as they live together worshiping in the ancient worship of God and sharing their lives together in their world.

So, can you see, the Ascension is all about Jesus’ being fully present in every way in blessing – all for his glory? He ascends to be fully present in every dimension – spiritual, physical, psychological, material…..and his presence is one of blessing for his people.

Is this why Paul can lead us in this prayer – from our home text for 2015…

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and the incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule, authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the age to come” (Ephesians 1:18-21).

Yes, the human and divine Jesus Christ rules and he is present for us – his body the church – for you.

Friends, where’s Jesus? Here! Jesus rules. How? He rules in mercy and forgiveness by his Word and by his Word he gives an everlasting inheritance to sinners.

What does this all mean for today?
This means that life does not have to go as Billy Crystal suggested!

We are not cold or bored or lost in our own naval gazing. We are alive and we have a purpose because He has a mission – to bless the world through his body, the church – his community through whom He is still about, making more disciples of himself. Our privilege is to be empowered by his Spirit to help people encounter this loving man and be filled with the joy the Holy Spirit brings to bear on our lives – to share the love and hope of Jesus with everyone.

Friends, surely this gives us confidence and hope for now and the future as everyday [people who live and work in God’s world. We are his local church – his body whom he fills with life and light and he overcomes darkness and death we face through us.

Surely in the face of growing antagonism and dismissal for our faith in our Australian society, and in our own circle of people, we have the joy, the hope, the life, the meaning for our work, the purpose for our gathering, the fire in the belly to live in his blessing and share him with others.

Yes, the world will end in the way and when Jesus deems it to be so, not when human beings in greed and lust for power decide.

My life will end and my ascension to glory will be at the Saviour’s authority and decision. Just like him, I will be bodily resurrected. Until then it is hand the wheel with you as we give our lives to his continual blessed working here.

Receive the joy of his blessing, his glory at work in you today. You need it to live faithfully and fully in him. Ask the Spirit for the joy of these Apostle’s. He gives it. You need it. We all do.

Friends, may the eyes of our hearts be opened today to joy of Jesus’ presence and blessing in your life and may he enliven us as a church to be his blessing and glory in our place.

May we receive the riches of his grace by the mighty power of his Word so that we continue to live in the calling we have received. Amen.

CONVERSATION STARTERS.

Share or reflect on how your week has been and how God has been present with you.

Ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of yur heart that you may know Jesus better through this reflection.

Read the text through carefully/slowly and pick up those three signs that Luke places in this account of Jesus resurrection to show that Jesus not going away for good, but staying with his disciples in a new way – Cloud, Blessing, joy of the disciples.

If you have time have a look at Exodus 24 for the background to the Glory Cloud – the visible presence of God acting in his grace with Moses and the 70 Elders of Israel on Mt Sinai…

Jesus, the new Moses, who does not reign by the Law but by the good news of forgiveness by his own sacrificed blood on the doorposts of our hearts first given in Baptism and re-confirmed in the Lord’s Supper now gives his disciples his glory as he fills the universe with his presence…

Share your reflection on what Jesus is doing here as it related to Exodus and what I have just said…. What links can you make between the Old Testament account of the Covenant in Exodus 24 and Jesus on the mountain with his disciples here – share your thoughts……

How do you think most people you know answer that question, “Where is Jesus?” Share your thoughts…

it seems that many people don’t believe he is anywhere. Other believe that he is only present when it feels good or when they personally sense his presence. others believe he is present everywhere in everything and so, worship and sacraments and the like are unnecessary. Other believe that Jesus is not present but that he has “left his Spirit here until he returns again at the end”.

Where do you think Jesus is?

Luke seems to proclaim that Jesus is both everywhere and yet not too heavenly that he is out of touch with the earth. He is still human after his resurrection. He is still divine and human before his death and after. So this “human Jesus” is still present as much as a divine Jesus – he can’t be separated.

This is why Lutherans (and others) have no trouble believing that Jesus, the man and God’s son at the same time can easily be phyisically present in the bread and wine of Holy Communion for us to eat and drink so that we receive his forgiveness and new life over and over again. This is why Holy Communion is such a central and special gift of God’ s grace for us.

This is also why Lutherans (and others) see that God is at work in the human things as much as the heavenly miraculous things. Everyday work, conversation,; human hands, mouths and feet, vocations of family, work, recreation are all God’s domain because Jesus is in them and works through them and us.

Chat about this belief and how it matches your experience/belief.

Notice the great joy those disciples had in this moment. They could only fall on the face on the ground (what the word “worship” literally means here in the original Greek language) and thanks and praise God for all that he had done and was doing right there and then. They ended up enjoying their worship life in the Jerusalem Temple a lot! Have you known joy like that? – so much joy that you overflow with thanks to the Lord for all his goodness shown to you? Share your story on this…..

PRAY: Spirit of Christ give me the joy of being saved, the joy of being at one with him and fellow Christians; the joy of being in a local community of faith in Jesus; the joy of working, studying, living in his grace and love…..

Inside Out

Sermon, Ascension Day, Sunday May 25, 2014.Pantor Crator
St Petri

Inside Out

Luke 24:44-53
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

And Acts 17: 16-34
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

If I wanted to make a group of Christians feel totally inadequate, scared, confused and guilty I would only have to use one word and the job would most times be done.

Now I don’t want t make anyone here feel like that! But this text from the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts raises the word that has this effect. What’s the word? ……..Witnessing!

Yes, there it is: “Witnessing to others”: Bearing witness to the gospel among other people who don’t believe in Jesus. Fulfilling the great commission of Jesus to preach the gospel to all the world….

If there is one area of the Christian life that we know we need to do but struggle so much to have any freedom in and joy in it seems to be this one.

We hear this great commissioning text and shudder in our boots a bit because we hear as being a challenge that seems totally dependent on us!

“….that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things…”.

When I think of “witnessing” I think of “Mission” and then i think of THE great missionary, Paul.

I think of him boldly showing us how it is to be done as he mixes it with the Greek philosophers at the Areopagus in Athens in Acts 17! The model of witnessing?!

Paul does have demonstrate the courage to stand up in public and launch the case for the Christian faith right in one of the leading cities of the world, and in the leading place of that city! Can you feel your flimsy witnessing courage ebbing away already?!

Is this where the guilt and the fear come from when it comes to our calling to bear witness to the gospel among people we know? Are we scared because know we are not Paul and guilty because we just don’t say anything much as a result?

Or is it that we, unlike Paul, just have no confidence to say much about our hope? Here Paul is using the rhetorical skills of the day to provide a strong case for repenting before God and receiving God’s forgiveness in the resurrected Jesus. Are we all meant to be able to do that? Is that why we just find witnessing so scary and something to suffered at best – if we ever pluck up the courage to say anything?

Or is because we are just scared messing it up? We have had a go with family members and we just end up in a bad place. It seems to turn into an argument and no one enjoys it and we feel like we have failed. So we have put the witnessing thing back in the box and left it there for the Paul’s of the world, or the pastors or the church staff or anyone but me!

I found some good news on this recently.

I heard someone say that the whole thing of witnessing to others need have no fear for us at all and that in our culture, in our time, there are ways to approach it and actually do it that are quite natural and actually quite easy. Even in this Ascension moment when Jesus commissions us he gives the good news that this work is his from start to finish
• “These are my words that I spoke to you”
• “to be proclaimed in his name”
• “clothed with power from on high.”
• “lifting up his hands, he blessed them”

I heard someone say that the whole thing of witnessing to others need have no fear for us at all and that in our culture, in our time, there are ways to approach it and actually do it that are quite natural and actually quite easy.

See, the gospel will sound different in every different situation and with every different person. And that is because the gospel of Jesus’ forgiveness is not some set text or formula that you just have to slavishly work into any conversation to achieve your goal of witnessing!

As an example….., on a few occasions in my life a friend has dared me to cleverly find some way of saying a weird word in a conversation with someone (stranger or friend) – just for fun. So the dare is, “I dare you to use the word ‘perfunctory’ (or some such other hardly used word) in a conversation with say “a taxi driver”.

So you jump in the taxi together. You have the word in your head and the conversation is going on and your friend who dared you to do this is keeping the score and you get nervous and your don’t know how to use the word and your scared of confusing the person or offending them (It could be his Indian grandmother’s name or something!)….

And now we are in the space we might find ourselves in if we thought that witnessing was using some set formula that we have to cleverly slip into to a conversation to pat ourselves on the back that we have won Jesus’ dare.

Well, Paul does not do that. The gospel comes out uniquely here because he is in a unique situation and he listens to the situation first.

In the particular situation he finds himself, he responds to the call of Jesus to bear witness for THAT situation. Here he uses all his awareness of the city and the people to invite people into the good news of the “unknown god”, whom he names as the righteous man whom God the creator has raised from the dead to give assurance of his love for the world to all (Acts 17;30-31).

Paul has a story, a nationality, a time and he has skills. He is steeped in the academic rigour of his day. He has rhetorical skills that fit this crowd. He uses them accordingly. I doubt whether Peter could have done this in this place. He has another background. Put Peter on the shore line with beefy blokes sharing a BBQ ad talking fishing and he could speak of faith in Jesus that would bear fruit. Then Paul would be out of his depth.

The good news comes out differently all the time.

OK. So this morning if can you accept that;
• You don’t have to be anyone else or
• You don’t have to use the magic word perfectly or set formula
• You don’t need to speak like someone else

Can you also just for a minute at least allow that
• You are free in your baptism into Christ to be yourself,
• Listen carefully and notice the other person,
• and when invited or when appropriate give YOUR account of the hope that is in you?

If so, then we might be able go a little further and can hear about a way to do this in much more natural ways, free from guilt or fear, express the “reason for your hope”.

“Inside Out” is the name for the way to be yourself, share your faith whenever and with whoever is appropriate.

Start from the ordinary things we already have inside of us to share then move on to those heavenly things of God with the person outside us – “inside out”.

Conversations about ordinary things and everyday concerns using Jesus own words for the moment is bearing witness inside out. His words are inside our hearts and minds and they simple come out for the moment as they are brought to mind by the Holy Spirit in that moment.

Jesus spoke about wheat and vines and water and business people and church buildings, and the like.

And we can do it like this…

You are chatting in the street with a person you know who is telling you about a really difficult situation they are having with their grown-up daughter. She is off the rails and this person is worried and a little bit angry and just wanting the daughter to come back home and talk about it.

What Jesus stories are in your mind now? I know which one comes to my mind straight away: the story about the prodigal sons – especially the young son.

How would it be that you simple said that this situation reminds me of a story Jesus told about a Father who also lost his wayward son….. Tell it your way how you remember it in whatever time you have.

And here is the best thing about this “inside out” way of bearing witness. You really don’t need to say anymore.

You might be tempted to go on and try and make all those links you know: God is our Father and he accepts us all and welcomes us back and calls us to do this for others and etc, etc…OR NOT.

What if you just related a story of Jesus or of any Bible story if it fits the conversation and trusted the Holy Spirit to make all the links for that person in his time and way?

I reckon we can trust the Holy Spirit to do that.
After all, doesn’t Jesus tell us that the Holy Spirit is the Director of mission?

‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me so I send you. …Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven” (John 20:21-23).

When Jesus sends out the 70 to the places he intended to soon go, he encouraged them to “pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send workers into His harvest. (Luke 10). This conversation and the story and you are the Lord’s right there and then.

The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said. Peace I leave with you….” (John 14)

Is witnessing less scary now and less about you knowing how to say thing right, and less about getting it right, having all your questions and answers right?

Isn’t it more about conversations about ordinary things and everyday concerns using Jesus own words for the moment? I reckon so and I am trying it. It is much easier and I am not so scared anymore.

Trusting the Holy Spirit is in our conversations and our simple talking about everyday things and concerns and offering the story of Jesus we know already that seems to match our Areopagus, our town square, our Valley, our skills and understandings and our century.

And one more freeing thing I notice with Paul and with ourselves….

If while you are talking to your friend in the street and nothing comes to mind, no story of Jesus appears, or his lift arrives and he has to go or you sense that the time is not right, you can stop it right there. Leave it to the Holy Spirit for another time.

Right at the end we hear this:

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”

And that is always the way. This is the Holy Spirits work. We hand our conversations to him and ask him to help us recall Jesus and tell of him when and where we can, but he has the final say.
Amen

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Read the texts out loud in some way carefully, noting what questions come to mind and what makes your mind wander into thought…

Share you initial reactions to the Word for a short time…

What makes you scared or intimidated with the action of witnessing? Make a list together…..

Share a bad experience of witnessing to Jesus and a good one.

What makes us tentative about sharing our faith? Which one is more a concern for you:

  • Don’t know what to say about Jesus
  • Scared of a negative response
  • Might lose a friendship
  • Might say something wrong – tell the person a wrong thing about God
  • Might say something wrong – something that offends the person.

Are you convinced that it is your responsibility to bear witness in words (and actions) or is this something you are unsure of?

Talk about people’s responses and experiences…

 

I suggested that this task Jesus gave his people (his church) is his work and that there is a way to bear witness to the hope we share in Jesus’ forgiveness and peace that fits our culture. I called it “Inside Out”. The letting what you already know – particularly the stories you know of Jesus and simply relating them in your own words to fit the situation as it presents itself – So moving from what God has already placed inside you to letting that outside of you in conversation.

I also suggested that telling of Jesus and the stories that reveal who he is and what he has done for people in OUR OWN words is certainly good enough. Ho to do feel about this idea? What would it require of you to engage in more often/ Share your thoughts….

Paul is the great model of mission mindedness and that is great, but we are not Paul. But we can do what Paul did to begin the conversation about God’s grace and the hope we have in his Son. he watched and listened to the people and the town and their idols and values and simply told of God’s creating all things and giving of his Son and raising him from the grave so that all could live at peace with the God of the universe. Is this something you think you could do for a friend as the opportunity comes – in your own words and way – why/why not?

I said we are free to be ourselves in this and if the conversation does not have time to develop or we just cant think of a Jesus story or whatever, that is OK because this is the Holy Spirit’s work and he is the “Director of Mission”. However, I guess it does mean that we need to know stories of Jesus and be able to share the hope we have in him. That’s our “homework” and yet, it is still the Holy Spirit’s work from beginning to end.

Would you think of a person with whom you are in a relationship now who is searching for help or advice or even faith and with their situation in ind, try and think of a bible story that relates to their situation and ponder how you might go about simple speak about that story as a gentle and friendly way of bearing witness to Jesus’ hope with that person. Take a few minutes individually and then share your thoughts.

 

PRAY

Lord of the Church, help us to bear witness to you in the ordinary things of life and the stories of your Word as we are able and as you decide so that more people move from worshiping unknown gods to knowing and loving Jesus. Amen.

 

Jesus Rules Audio Sermon

Click on this link to hear Pr A’s sermon on the Acension of Jesus

                     18Ascension Luke 24 44-53