Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Easter 7 Sermon (May 16)

I remember teaching my children to ride a bike. First came the training wheels and then came the day they wanted them off. Slowly, slowly, they pulled away from me as I held the bike up. A few crashes later they were confident and riding around the parking lot on their own. Part of life is in giving them the freedom to learn, to crash, to pick themselves sup, try again and to trust themselves.

That in a nutshell is what the Ascension is all about The disciples were lost without Jesus when they thought it was all over with his crucifixion but after the Resurrection when he kept appearing to them, helping them understand their ministry, their calling, they grew confident in who they were. Then in the Ascension, as they watch Jesus leave, he has let them go to do their work. They will crash, they will have bumps and bruises but it is now their ministry and they are entrusted with it.

We see that in the ministry of Paul and Silas in Macedonia. It was Jesus who confronted Paul on that road to Damascus and the Holy Spirit becomes his guide for his ministry; setting him free from hatred to love others as Christ loved him. In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles:

-a slave-girl: spirit of divination, profit source! she knows Paul and his companions: proclaim a way of salvation.

-Paul is annoyed by her and he casts out her spirit…and she is set free, but the owners cannot exploit her anymore and they are angry. Paul & Silas are thrown into jail; beaten for such an act.

They never get to that place of prayer that they were headed too, but they do continue their ministry.

-so even in jail, shackled away from others they pray and sing songs to God; prisoners were listening of course it was midnight, how could they sleep? An earthquake strikes, the doors open, they are free

-the jailer is ready to do himself in, he would be blamed, but they are still there: What must I do to be saved? The jailer asks. Believe in the Lord Jesus.

Such persistence in their calling pays off as the jailer hears the words of salvation: Believe in Jesus. And the Holy Spirit moved that night; Paul & Silas are free; the jailer brings Paul & Silas to his home to take care of their wounds, to give them food and the jailer and his household are baptized and freed. Salvation comes to that household and the grace of God is present in their witness.

Part of our calling as Christians is to discover our ministry. For we live after the Ascension, when Jesus is gone. We live in that Eastertide, in the New Life Jesus has given us. Its up to us, relying on the Holy Spirit, to discover our mission in God’s grand scheme of things and then go out and do it.

Josh was a college student spending his vacation working with a relief organization that built housing in underdeveloped countries. Josh made friends with a number of the children in the village. One boy, Obioma, especially endeared himself with the college volunteers. Always upbeat and smiling, Obioma was eager to do whatever he could to help. Josh noticed that Obioma wore the same dingy shirt every day. So he scrounged up three T-shirts from what he and the other students had brought and that family and friends back home had donated. The shirts were a little big on Obioma, but he'd grow into them.

When Josh gave the shirts to the little boy, Obioma gave him a big hug and broad smile. The next day, Josh saw two older boys wearing shirts he had just given to Obioma. Fearing the worst, Josh went looking for Obioma to make sure he was all right. "Those gifts were for you, Obioma, so you'd have a change of clothes," Josh told his little friend. Obioma replied, "But, Mr. Josh, you gave me so many!" [From More Random Acts of Kindness.]
The generosity that Josh shares is returned by Obioma as he shares generously with others. In his calling to reach out and help, Josh not only discovered his mission but he helped another live out his mission too. We live out our mission where we are, as the poet, KY farmer and Christian, Wendell berry reminds us that Jesus’ call to live the abundant life means: We become “conscious, consenting and responsible participants in the one great life.” Right where we are.

Or as he puts it in one of his poems:
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
Practice resurrection.

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