Faith Church

First Words From the Empty Tomb – Power | Sermon from 5/5/2013

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As I have been thinking about these first words and how to live them out in my own life I have come to realize that this is not easy.  Being able to really see Jesus in my life and then to see him working in the world around me is not easy.  Asking people to forgive me and then forgiving others is not easy.  Knowing that God’s peace is available but won’t take my problems away is not easy.  To go into our community or to think about going into the world to keep doing the work of Jesus is not easy.
This past week Dick Snyder said to me, I think God is calling someone from this church to go on a mission trip to Sierra Leone.  When I asked him who, he just smiled and said, you.  I have to tell you, I was immediately uncomfortable.  I laughed and said, I’ll tell you what Chris Ramish told me, I would be terrified, and then I said, besides God made it clear that I am not the one to go.  My job is to raise up people and resources to go.  But then I had to stop and ask myself – really?  I heard that word more than 5 years ago, what is God saying now?  Do I need to think about going into the world with the love and grace of God?  None of this is easy stuff.
Following Jesus is not easy and Jesus knew what he was calling us to do and how he was calling us to live was going to be beyond our ability at times, so the very last of his first words is one that brings us hope and some encouragement.  The final first word from the empty tomb is POWER and we find it in Acts 1:8a.  Jesus said, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. 
This is the final word of Jesus.  After he says this he ascends into heaven and there are no more words, but a few weeks later the power of God does come upon the disciples, look at  Acts 2:1-4.  Until this moment, the followers of Jesus were struggling to live out his message, but when the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon them everything changed.  They now had the strength and ability to do things they thought were completely beyond their ability.  Their words and lives now revealed Jesus, they offered a forgiveness so powerful that it brought physical healing to people and despite their fear and problems, they experienced a divine peace that moved them forward in life and soon as the power of God filled them they began to go.  It says they immediately left the house where they were gathered and began to proclaim all what God had done in Jesus.  The power of God gave them the ability to live out these first words of Jesus.
The same is true for us today.  The power we need to live the way Jesus calls us to live doesn’t come from the world around us.  The power we need to follow Jesus doesn’t come from winning thepowerball, eating a powerbar, getting fit by powerwalking or even becoming one of the power rangers, it comes from God through the Holy Spirit.  The kind of power we need to live the life God calls us to live comes from God himself.  The power to experience peace even when we face overwhelming problems, the power to forgive and ask others to forgive us and the power to go into all the world with the love and grace and truth of God isn’t found in this world – it comes from God and so we need to ask God for it.
The reason we ask God for this power is because we don’t earn it.  This power of God is not for sale, it is a gift that God gives when our hearts are humbled and our lives are open before Him.  There was a man who thought he could buy the power of the Holy Spirit.  His name was Simon and as he watched Peter and John minister to the people he could see the power of God flowing through them and he wanted that power.  Simon went to Peter and offered him money and said, “Give me this power.”  Peter’s response was harsh, he said, “May your silver die with you because you thought you could buy this gift of God.  Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord to be forgiven.”  Peter’s makes it clear – God’s power is not for sale, it is a gift.  God’s power is not earned, it is a gift God is willing to give when we humble ourselves and ask.  In fact, Jesus said ask and it will be given to you, seek you will find, knock and the door will opened to you.
What this means for us is that the power we need to live according to the will of God is not purchased by giving large offerings to the church, it’s not earned by doing lots of good deeds in the community and it is not deserved because we have prayed the right prayers, read the right parts of the Bible or had perfect attendance in worship.  All those things are good but they don’t move God to give us the power of His Holy Spirit.  The power of God comes when we humble ourselves and come before God with hearts and hands open, empty and eager to receive.
That’s what the disciples did.  Jesus told them that the power of God would come to them in Jerusalem and so they needed to wait there until it came, so they waited.  They trusted that Jesus’ word was true so they set aside their own agenda and with open hearts and lives they waited in Jerusalem until the power of God came.   What does it mean for us to wait?  What does it mean for us to ask God for His power and the wait for it to come?
The first thing it means is that we need to humble ourselves before God and ask for the power of God to enter our lives.  Waiting means that we have to acknowledge that we can’t live out the words of Jesus on our own.  We need God’s power and strength to help us.  Sometimes this is the hardest part.  Acknowledging that we can’t do everything on our own is hard for some of us, but it’s true.  We need God.  But waiting is not completely passive, we don’t just sit and do nothing and we don’t just continue on in life as usual, that’s not what the disciples did.
When Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem it meant that they couldn’t go back to their homes and jobs and normal routines.  They didn’t live in Jerusalem so things had to change.  For the disciples, waiting meant living together in community.  Waiting meant that they ate together, prayed together discussed Jesus together, read scripture together and began dreaming and planned their future together.  That’s what we see in Acts 1.  The disciples devoted themselves to prayer, they studying the scriptures together, and even came up with a plan to replace Judas who had betrayed them.  Waiting, for the disciples, was not passive.  It was not filled with silence as everyone looked to the ground; it was filled with active passionate hearts and eyes looking to God.  This is what our waiting needs to look like today.
God wants to give us His power so that we can carry on the work of Jesus but God wants to give this power to people who are eager to receive it.  The disciples were eager, they were getting themselves ready, and they wanted it.  God wants minds searching the scriptures getting ready to see the truth and love of Jesus, God wants hearts ready to ask for and receive forgiveness, and God wants hands and feet waiting with eager anticipation to go into the world and do all that God has for us.
So waiting means we don’t just look for God’s power to come but we prepare ourselves to use it when it arrives.  It means we wait with eager anticipation expecting it to come, maybe even to come today.  Is that how we came to worship this morning?  Were we eager and expecting God to give us his power?  Is that how we wake up on Monday morning or leave work on Friday afternoons, expecting God to send his power so we can do all God asks us to do in every moment of life?  I don’t know about you, but I’m not always waiting this way.  In fact, it seems like there are very few times I find myself waiting this way and one of the reasons is because I know that when the power of God enters into my life it means that things will change.
Life radically changed for the disciples when the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them.  The first thing the power of God did was have Peter preach to thousands of people.  When the power of God came upon a man named Stephen, he spoke with such truth and passion that he was stoned by those he challenged.  When the power of God came upon the religious leader Saul it turned his life around so that he no longer persecuted Jesus but preached Jesus which meant that he was now the one being persecuted.
When the power of God comes upon people, it usually means their lives change.  A few years ago at the Leadership Summit we heard from a woman, Momma Maggie Gorban.  Momma Maggie grew up in an upper middle class family in Egypt and was a professor at a prestigious university in Cairo.  One Easter during an outreach event through their church, the power of God came upon her and she gave up her comfortable life in order to reach out to and rescue the children who lived in the garbage dumps around Cairo.  Her life radically changed and it is that kind of life change that at times keeps me from asking God’s power to enter into my life.
But I want to get over that fear and if you want to do the same, we need to pray.  Sometimes it really is that simple.  Maybe before we pray and ask God for the power of his spirit we need to pray and ask God to prepare us to receive this life changing spirit.  Maybe that is the pray you need to pray today or this week – if it is we invite you to use the prayer we have included on the next steps.
If we are ready for this life changing power of God and it just hasn’t come yet, then our waiting means continuing to do all that God has already given us.  God’s power will come, we just can’t give up.  That’s what God tells us in Hebrews 10:23-25.  We not only need to meet together, we need to encourage one another to keep going knowing that God who has promised us the power of His spirit will provide it.
Today there is one very important way we can wait for God to give us His power and that is to open ourselves up fully to receive that power through Holy Communion.  Like the power of God, this meal is a gift and all we need to do to receive it is open our hands to take the bread and cup and open our hearts to receive God’s love given through it.  God’s power is part of this meal and today might be the day we experience that power in a new and fresh way.
Today might be the day the power of God will open our eyes so that we see just how much we need God.  Today might be the day the power of God will give us the assurance that we are finally and forever free and truly forgiven of our sin.  Today might be the day we hear God calling us to live life a different way.  Today can be the day the power of God comes upon us and changes us forever, it will come when we humble ourselves and wait before God.  So let us wait at this table and with expectant hearts and lives eager to receive, let us ask God for his power.
Next Steps
First Words from the Empty Tomb ~ Power
Jesus promised power to the disciples if they would wait.
Waiting today means to looking to God in humility and tokeep doing those things we are already doing.
1. How do I need to humble myself before God?
            Confess my sin
            Seeking and offering forgiveness
Giving up control and the need to have things my way
2. What are those things I need to keep doing?
            Prayer
            Worship
            Servicing others
            Tithing
            Sharing my faith in Christ
3. If you are not ready for the life changing power of God, consider praying this prayer this week:
Almighty God, I know your power will change me inside and out and this causes me fear and anxiety.  At times I am not sure I want to change and there are parts of my life we both know I struggle to give to you.  Forgive me for my fear and insecurity and pride.  Forgive me for choosing comfort over courage and routine over a radical faith.  Prepare me for the gift of your spirit.  Prepare my heart and life to be forever changed by your power.  Prepare me, Lord Jesus, and then send me the gift of God’s power!  AMEN

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