SER # 22Wa
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
COLOR: WHITE OR GOLD
SUNDAY MAY 24TH 2020
TEXTS: ACTS 1: 1 – 11
THEME: SHELTER IN PLACE.
God is Good! All the time! And all the time! God is good!
Our Scripture today is Acts 1: 1 – 11 “……. Asa result, those who had gathered asked Jesus, Lord, are you going to restore the Kingdom of Israel now? Jesus replied, it is not for you to know the times and the seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. Rather you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going away and as they were staring towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them. They said, Galileans, why are you standing here, looking towards heaven? This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.
Word of God written for the people of God – Thanks be to God.
Pastoral Prayer:(Memorial Day weekend, Margee Spiers Bears on the background)
The Lord’s Prayer:
As we share our message today, I am reminded is a Memorial Day weekend. I would like to take a moment to honor all the veterans knowing how much they sacrificed. Some gave their lives. Some of those who gave their lives their remains have never been found. We like to honor you all for your service.
For those who follow the church calendar know that today is Ascension Sunday. The actual Ascension Day this year according to our calendar rook place on Thursday May 21st 2020. This is the Sunday we celebrate when Jesus was taken to heaven after his resurrection. It took place 40 days after Jesus resurrection.
For those who follow the Methodist tradition followers, Sunday May 24th 1738 at 5:20pm, was when John Wesley had his heart “strangely warmed” People thing it was the day when John Wesley was converted. This John Wesley experience has come to be known as Aldersgate Day. Methodist all over the world celebrate this day once a year on May 24th in different ways.
After Jesus rose from the dead he appeared before his disciples and other believers several times. We are told he was with them for 40 days helping them understand who he was and also answering many questions that they had about the ministry. He was with them 40 days before ascension. 40 is a special biblical number for it reminds us of 40 years the Israelites spend in the wilderness before they came to the Promised Land.
Jesus brings the disciples outside the city of Jerusalem on an open place and it is here where he is taken to heaven. Here again we see the cloud coming representing the presence of God. It was important that Jesus brought into conclusion his stay with the disciples and for them to have that experience of Jesus being lifted up to heaven. From the story it is worth noting that two men appeared after Jesus disappeared in the cloud and asked the disciples why they were gazing up. This story of the two men appearing reminds us of the two men who appeared to the women at the tomb where Jesus was buried and told them the one, they were looking for was alive and he was to meet the disciples in Galilee. The appearing of the two men at this point brought clarity to what was happening. The two men explains to the disciples that Jesus had gone up to be with the father and he would come back. The disciples experienced emptiness. What they experienced could be similar to what we sometimes feel when the one we love leaves us even when we know we will reconnect again in future. It might not be exactly the same but I am thinking of a parent who has to see their only child at the airport as they leave to another country or a loved one. Given a chance one who go and look at the plain as it takes off, look until their eyes can’t see it anymore. Even though you have faith and you know where he/she is going you can never stop to wonder what is next. In a similar manner there was a feeling of emptiness among the disciples no wander they were left gazing in the sky. The encouraging part here was that Jesus had already taught them that he had to go in order to allow the Holy Spirit to come upon them. The disciples were therefore to go back to Jerusalem and keep waiting. By Jesus going to heaven (Ascension) gives us a new understanding of who we are as believers and who Jesus is:
- The immortality of Jesus: Knowing that Jesus is still alive brings with it a new energy and influence to our faith. It tells us the story of Jesus presence in our lives and confirms that we worship a living God. We the believers continue the life of Jesus in his church. We (church) our goal is to continue the work of Jesus Christ here on earth. Unlike most world religions that the founder dies and never comes back, our Jesus is alive today and he reigns forever with the Father. It is a fundamental believe to the Christians to understand our God lives in us and continues to direct our lives. Jesus is the immortal one who brings life to the mortal humans. We know once we get to heaven we will also live forever. There will be not death or any form of pain or suffering (Rev 7:14-17). Some of us we will Ascend to heaven before Jesus returns again. Others will join Jesus when he returns to get them and take them home. Ascension of Jesus confirms that Jesus is alive and went up to prepare a place for us and when the place is ready for each of us at our own time, we will join Jesus and all those who went before us.
- Holy Spirit the promise: Jesus had promised his disciples the coming of the Holy Spirit who was going to guide them. Jesus in human body was limited to where he could be at each time. He could not be in two places at the same time. That why the Holy Spirit who is with us wherever we go was a perfect promise. God therefore reside within us through the Holy Spirit. By Ascension Jesus was ushering the Kingdom of God on earth. The believers then including the disciples did not understand about this Kingdom. While the disciples were thinking about the earthly political Kingdom Jesus was talking about the Spiritual Kingdom. This Spiritual kingdom powers is not judged in terms of weaponry might or technology advancements but rather this Kingdom resides among men and women who have invited Jesus in their life. The guiding theme of the Spiritual kingdom is love. This kingdom under the Holy Spirit conquers the world powers and is the one that last forever. Any earthly kingdom no matter how powerful it claims to be it will come to an end. History can confirm that for there were mighty kingdoms and they all came to an end. For “Rome” might claim to be mighty but our God is Almighty and his Kingdom has no end. Hence the Spiritual Kingdom is founded by love not power. The Lord’s Prayer explains how the Kingdom of God is like. In this kingdom it is only the will of God that should be done.
- Wait upon The Holy Spirit: The disciples were instructed to wait in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit. We have to learn how to wait for in waiting we receive. When we pray to God, we expect one of the three answers: YES, WAIT, or NO. Out of the three answers there could be combination like: yes, but you have to wait, no, not now but later. What we learn therefore from waiting is very important lessons of life: The bible reminds us of what happens for those who wait upon the Lord. One, as we wait our strength is renewed – Isaiah 40:31. Two, waiting helps us not to go ahead of God’s plan for us for his plan is the perfect. When the Holy Spirit come upon us, we will be able to witness of Christ from: Jerusalem (our homes and close friends) to Judea (our town, workmates, social groups) Samaria (State, Country) and end of the earth (other continents). To witness is to give account of what God is doing in our lives in words – expressing of personal experiences. Witness by our deeds which means by living a Christ like life so that people get attracted to Jesus through us. As witnesses we have to be ready to give everything for Christ including our own lives. To witness is to be royal to our master whatever it costs. As royal soldiers we are called to be martyrs if need be. We have to witness what we have experienced. People that Jesus healed went and witnessed what had happened to them. The Samaritan woman at the well went back to the village and told the people of her encounter with Jesus (John 4:1ff). Our mission here is “To Known Christ and Make Christ Known.”