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Scripture

Acts 1:6–11 NRSV
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:6-11

Video

Introduction

We conclude this series today, Spirit and Truth and then on Sept. 9 start the McEver Movie Series with the Black Panther. Please watch these movies before the sermon and look for theological themes like good versus evil, or injustice or justice, Christ like love of Christ imagery. You do not have to do this but it will certainly enrich the sermons if you do. Now on to today’s sermon.
Here is a picture of the Mount of Olives where the ascension, according to Luke here in Acts, took place. It’s about 1/2 mile from Jerusalem, which is approx a sabbath days journey. The sabbath day’s journey is as far as a Jew was allowed to walk on the sabbath before it became work. If you have been to the sections of Atlanta where conservative or orthodox communities are you will see folks walking to synagogue on the sabbath. Driving is work, so they walk but no more than 1/2 a mile. can you imagine what Sunday would look like here, with all the churches we have in Hall County if Christians still followed the Jewish sabbath laws!

Exegesis

So, this text immediately follows Luke’s salutation to Theophilus. Remember him from a couple of weeks ago. We aren’t sure who he is, or if he’s a group of people. But we read Luke’s purpose in the continuing story about what happened after Jesus ascended. Luke tell’s 2 ascension stories one at the end of the gospel and one here. They are somewhat different and they are different for a reason. One is an ending the other is a beginning, although they describe the same historic event but interpreted differently. So we’re not goin to go down a rabbit trail this morning of trying to explain why Luke tells the same story twice we are going to look at what we have here.
Luke is introducing the Holy Spirit as the empowering agent to mission. Luke writes in verses
Acts 1:4–5 NRSV
While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
From this transition he goes on to describe the ascension of Jesus. Jesus and the 11 are gathered outside of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. They ask him a political question. They are still expecting Jesus to overthrow the Roman government and re establish the throne of David. This is still what they think the Kingdom of God is, and they are sadly mistaken. As Barclay says when Jesus said kingdom “he meant a just society upon earth where God’s will would be perfectly done as it is in heaven.” “Father may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom grounded on love not power. In order to accomplish that we need the Holy Spirit.
In order for the Spirit to come Jesus has to leave. But before he does he gives his fledging church some direction. Later in verse 15 we learn that this baby church is some 120 persons, including the 11, back in Jerusalem! From this 120 we are now an estimated 2.2 billion believers! It all started here with Jesus directions, but first he must answer the question of the Kingdom’s arrival. Jesus tells them not to worry about that, all that is only know to the Father. Unfortunately, though from then to today we have those that think they have found some secret code in the Bible that can predict Jesus return. it’s not possible, Jesus says its not possible and not to even think about that.
What he tells them is that the promised Holy Spirit is coming and they should go back to Jerusalem and wait. There it is again, wait. Seems like the church does a lot of waiting doesn’t it? We talked a couple of weeks ago about what to do while waiting. Luke goes on to tell us that during that time they selected Matthias to replace Judas and they prayed. In other words, they went about the business of the community the best they knew how.
Jesus tells them that the power of the HS, when it comes, will make them witnesses in Jerusalem and Samaria and the ends of the earth. In essence Jesus is telling them, and us, what we are to be dong between his ascension and his second coming. But the Spirit is coming, we will not be left orphaned and it will empower us!
Then Jesus ascends, whatever that looked like, a supernatural event where he goes to sit at the right hand of God the father, yet his presence is very real through the promised HS.
Then this text ends with the Angels appearing and telling the 11, stop string into space and get to work.
No we could spend some time on the importance of the ascension itself, but we’re going to take a look at the Holy Spirit empowering mission because that is what’s next till Jesus returns.

Application

The arrival of the Holy Spirit created a new reality. The world is turned upside down and empowers us, the church, to thrive until the end of evil and death, and leading us into a future to be realized when Jesus returns. This is not an inward focused mission and unfortunately we have treated it as such. Our buildings and institutions have become more important than the mission Jesus has given us. We are more concerned about protecting our turf, and only letting the Holy Spirit have any shot at transforming us through worship or some type of Bible study. i think we have forgotten that the Spirits purpose is to empower us for mission.
Our mission is to be witnesses. As Bishop Will Willimon comments on this passage, this more than mere busyness and strenuous human effort. In other words this isn’t about programs or Vbs or small groups. the Kingdom is a gift that needs to be accepted through the Holy Spirit which is also a gift of grace. We have to engage the spirt in our mission as witnesses for us to have any chance of succeeding in our mission. Could this be why we have so many churches in decline today? That we have forgotten that it is the Spirit that empowers our mission? The Spirit provides extraordinary resources to ordinary people. it is not merely an agent of our sanctification, but a empowering agent that sends us into the world. Maybe that’s it. Maybe declining churches have grieved the Spirit so in its primary task of sending us in mission, that many of them find it impossible, on their on, to turn things around. They have become so self centered and self focused that they have found security in cheap substitutes for the Spirit. It is like the Israelites wanting to return to Egypt because slavery was more secure than trusting in God!
A good example of what I am talking about here can be found in Dick Wills book Waking to God’s dream. It is a story about turning around a large church in severe decline, he says this:
I had led our people in such a way that we had substituted meetings for ministry. By focusing on my career and wanting to please people, I had left behind the things of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
He goes on to write about goin to a seminar in South Africa where he discovered (through the Holy Spirit) that he needed to be open to where God was leading and wanted to bless rather than him trying to get God to bless what he was doing!
Folks our over whelming desire should be to be so filled with God’s Holy Spirit so that our work will spring from its power!
If this is true than this invades every part of our life. Our vocations, the way we make a living should be empowered by the Spirit. There should be no compartmentalization in our lives, everyday is Sunday. Also, the work you do for the church, is not for the church but is for God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, it is when we try to do things on our own like Dick Wills, that we burn out and have no joy in working for God.
Everything we do is for those outside the church. That should drive our every thought because that is the mission Jesus gave us. Every plan we make should be made wit this mission in mind. What can we do to make us better witness where we are and the world at large?
How do we do this, how do we tap into this empowerment? Prayer. Ask God to open your heart to the Spirit’s leading. If you do this you will hear the Spirit talking to you and most likely directing you to take a risk, something you don’t think you can do. And its true, you can’t do it without the empowerment of the HS.
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 2000 Lo! I Am with Thee

David Livingstone had spent sixteen years in Africa but had not faced such peril. The white man was surrounded by hostile, angry natives in the heart of Africa. He was in danger of losing his life and contemplated fleeing in the night. But something happened that changed his mind and gave him peace in his perilous situation. He recorded it in his diary that January 14, 1856:

Felt much turmoil of spirit in prospect of having all my plans for the welfare of this great region and this teeming population knocked on the head by savages tomorrow. But I read that Jesus said: “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” It is the word of a gentleman of the most strict and sacred honor, so there’s an end to it! I will not cross furtively tonight as I intended. Should such a man as I flee? Nay, verily, I shall take observations for latitude and longitude tonight, though they may be the last. I feel quite calm now, thank God!

Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 2000 Lo! I Am with Thee

David Livingstone had spent sixteen years in Africa but had not faced such peril. The white man was surrounded by hostile, angry natives in the heart of Africa. He was in danger of losing his life and contemplated fleeing in the night. But something happened that changed his mind and gave him peace in his perilous situation. He recorded it in his diary that January 14, 1856:

Felt much turmoil of spirit in prospect of having all my plans for the welfare of this great region and this teeming population knocked on the head by savages tomorrow. But I read that Jesus said: “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” It is the word of a gentleman of the most strict and sacred honor, so there’s an end to it! I will not cross furtively tonight as I intended. Should such a man as I flee? Nay, verily, I shall take observations for latitude and longitude tonight, though they may be the last. I feel quite calm now, thank God!

David Livingstone had spent sixteen years in Africa but had not faced such peril. He was surrounded by hostile, angry natives in the heart of Africa. He was in danger of losing his life and contemplated fleeing in the night. But something happened that changed his mind and gave him peace in his perilous situation. He recorded it in his diary that January 14, 1856:
“Felt much turmoil of spirit in prospect of having all my plans for the welfare of this great region and this teeming population knocked on the head by savages tomorrow. But I read that Jesus said: “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth. Go therefore, and teach all nations, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” It is the word of a gentleman of the most strict and sacred honor, so there’s an end to it! I will not cross furtively tonight as I intended. Should such a man as I flee? Nay, verily, I shall take observations for latitude and longitude tonight, though they may be the last. I feel quite calm now, thank God!”
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 2000 Lo! I Am with Thee

David Livingstone had spent sixteen years in Africa but had not faced such peril. The white man was surrounded by hostile, angry natives in the heart of Africa. He was in danger of losing his life and contemplated fleeing in the night. But something happened that changed his mind and gave him peace in his perilous situation. He recorded it in his diary that January 14, 1856:

Felt much turmoil of spirit in prospect of having all my plans for the welfare of this great region and this teeming population knocked on the head by savages tomorrow. But I read that Jesus said: “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” It is the word of a gentleman of the most strict and sacred honor, so there’s an end to it! I will not cross furtively tonight as I intended. Should such a man as I flee? Nay, verily, I shall take observations for latitude and longitude tonight, though they may be the last. I feel quite calm now, thank God!

It was the Spirit that reassured Livingston. And it is the Spirit that will empower and reassure you. You can do all things through God who strengthens you. Ask God what he wants you to do to fulfill Jesus’ mission. Whatever it is God can use you to accomplish it.
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