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The Mission Continues Part 2.3

The Jesus Mission Continues  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Holy Spirit inspires us to be a colony of heaven in the country of death, to give witness to the already-inaugurated kingdom of God.

Notes
Transcript
Introduction:
We are in the fourth message in our message series called “It Continues.” This message series is all about how the Jesus mission continues with us, more specifically the community of holy friends at Beth El Shalom in Katy, Texas. The first week, we defined the Jesus mission in its major parts of being inspired by the Spirit, going to all people, required wholehearted discipleship, and a very real and intentional focus on Jesus. We said in week 1 that this is still the mission of the Messiah’s communities today. Beth El Shalom’s mission statement is a reflection of this, “BES exists to inspire all people to wholeheartedly follow Jesus.” And, for the last two weeks we have focused on that word “inspire.” Defining it as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in each individual Christian. In the first message on the Holy Spirit, I said that He alone is the power and inspiration we need. And, He often starts off in the small things when he begins to move big mountains. Then last week we talked about how to cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit. This week I want us to see ourselves in a very old story, a story about how the Holy Spirit inspires us to be a colony of heaven in the country of death, to give witness to the already-inaugurated kingdom of God.
Ha-Foke-Bah
De-Cola-Bah
Ha-Foke-Bah
Ha-Foke-Bah
Mashiach-Bah
Turn it, and turn it, everything you need is in it.
Reflect on it, grow old and gray with it.
Do not turn from it.
The Messiah is in it.
Acts 20:25–32 (HCSB)
Acts 20:25–32 HCSB
25 “And now I know that none of you will ever see my face again—everyone I went about preaching the kingdom to. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of everyone’s blood, 27 for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole plan of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. 32 “And now I commit you to God and to the message of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified.
Transition: If I could grant you one wish today it would be this, “That you would see that you are part of that story back there but right now.” My one wish is that you would not understand today’s message as a history lesson, the gathering together of facts and data. Rather, you would see yourself in this story about a Spirit inspired colony of heaven in the country of death, a colony giving witness to the already-inaugurated Kingdom of God. It is what the Hebrew Bible means by the word “Zakor” loosely translated “to remember.” But as the Israeli Scholar Avraham Infeld has pointed out, “History is knowing what happened in the past. Memory is asking how does what happened in the past impact on who I am today? That is why at Passover we don’t teach our children that our forefathers came out of Egypt. We teach them that each person must see oneself as if he or she personally came out of Egypt.” If I could wave my magic wand over you and just give you the creative imagination to see today’s sermon not as data, facts, or talking points but as a story, a memory that is washing you into it’s tide and beckoning you to this colony of heaven.
This is the only place in the Scriptures Paul addresses an audience of Jesus Followers.
Paul’s last words to Jesus Followers at Ephesus. He envisions a Spirit inspired colony of heaven in the country of death, a colony giving witness to the already-inaugurated kingdom of God.
The colony of heaven needs faithful watchman. (Acts 20:26-27; Eze 33:4-5)
Acts 20:26–27 HCSB
26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of everyone’s blood, 27 for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole plan of God.
If God’s Spirit creates an Ecclesia it is a colony of heaven and needs a watchman.
Faithful watchmen speak truth for the sake of the colony of heaven.
If you stand condemned before God, consigned to hell, Paul is innocent.
Paul assumes the prophet task of Ezekiel to warn shepherds (Eze 34) but also to warn as a watchmen whose life is at stake. Eze 33:6, 8
Ezekiel 33:6 HCSB
6 However, if the watchman sees the sword coming but doesn’t blow the trumpet, so that the people aren’t warned, and the sword comes and takes away their lives, then they have been taken away because of their iniquity, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.
Ezekiel 33:8 HCSB
8 If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked one, you will surely die,’ but you do not speak out to warn him about his way, that wicked person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood.
What was the watchman’s message: already-inaugurated kingdom of God. The message version Acts 20:25-27
Acts 20:25–27 The Message
25 “And so this is good-bye. You’re not going to see me again, nor I you, you whom I have gone among for so long proclaiming the news of God’s inaugurated kingdom. 26 I’ve done my best for you, given you my all, 27 held back nothing of God’s will for you.
Spiritual Transformation here, now. For Paul and all the other early Christians, what mattered was not “saved souls” being rescued from the world and taken to a distant “heaven,” but the coming together of heaven and earth themselves in a great act of cosmic renewal in which human hearts, minds, and bodies are likewise being renewed to take their place within that new world. (When Paul says, “We are citizens of heaven,” [Phil 3:20] he goes on at once to say that Jesus will come from heaven not to take us back there, but to transform the present world and us with it.)
Unflinching Commitment here, now. Paul’s loyalty to the hope of Israel comes through so strongly as he embodies the prophetic task. Paul believed that in Jesus the One God had acted “when the fullness of time arrived.” This is not a new story but the climax of the ongoing story of Israel’s history. Paul saw himself living at the ultimate turning point of history. His announcement of Jesus in that culture at that moment was itself a call to Israel and Nations to the colony of i where the davidic King was ruling and reigning.
Holy Community here, now. The place where the invisible world (“heaven”) and the visible world (“earth”) were joined together was the colony of heaven not the Temple.
Faithful watchmen evaluate themselves and take care of themselves before trying to care for others. - Acts 20:28
Acts 20:28 HCSB
28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.
Faithful watchmen know the Holy Spirit is the final authority over the flock.
God gave Jesus to the cross, the cross gave the world a heavenly colony. Acts 20:28
Acts 20:28 HCSB
28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.
Theology: The trinitarian work of God: Owner, Shepherd, Purchaser
Sociology: The value God assigned to each person in ALL his flock shapes our culture.
Anthropology: A Community born out of the cross gets its identity from it. A Cruciform identity.
The colony of heaven will be preyed upon by wolves from the country of death. Acts 20:29-30
Acts 20:29–30 HCSB
29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them.
The colony of heaven needs God’s ongoing protection. Acts 20:32
Acts 20:32 HCSB
32 “And now I commit you to God and to the message of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified.
Transition: The memory of this story has washed over me and carried me away in its currents for over twenty-two years now. I have also seen myself in the audience of overseers, hearing the words of Paul’s solemn pronouncement, “I am innocent of the blood of any you…..” I feel the weight of this, the kind of truthfulness that is required on behalf of the Gospel. I know that the reason he is innocent is the same reason I will be innocent, the same reason you will be innocent because, he did not hesitate “to guard himself and the flock of God from wolves.” For me, this moment is repeated like every Sunday at 3pm. Like Bill Murry in Groundhog Day, this day of testing meets me here every time I enter this pulpit, this bema. Will I water down the Truth and hang my head in shame, falsifying the Gospel, or will I guard myself and this flock of God and not hesitate in declaring his Kingdom to you and guard you from the wolves both within and without?” This is not just true of me, what about you? You also are here every Sunday and what do you do with the counsel of God that is given to you? Are you deliberate in your application of the message? Are you watching over your soul and the flock God has given you: husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, employer? Since, I am in the story, and you are in the story, I have to warn you about some wolves, some teachings that seduce the colony of heaven away from following Jesus.
Teachings that seduce the colony of heaven away from following Jesus.
The colony of heaven is not an ecclesiastical business.
The colony of heaven is not a sole proprietorship.
The colony of heaven is not a clone colony.
The colony of heaven is not an audition for American Idol.
The colony of heaven is not a solution center.
The colony of heaven is not an ethics committee meeting.
The colony of heaven is not in the promised land.
Transition: The wolves are out there, and I know that every day they are leading the flock away from Jesus. Leading them out to the country of death. Dividing congregations, dividing families, dividing friends, dividing their devotion to the Lord. BUT, the colony of heaven is ultimately under the care and direction of the Spirit of God from heaven. Each and every congregation of the Lord is brought into existence by the saving work of Jesus and is precious to God. The Holy Spirit inspires the witness of the colony of heaven, a living witness, not a history lesson, but a witness that constantly sounds like we somehow are part of this grand story, they back there and we right here, parallel in the story but at different time.
The colony of heaven is a Spirit inspired community.
We give witnesses to God’ kingdom story and our part in it.
We give witnesses to God’s value placed on our kingdom family.
We give witnesses to Holy Spirit’s leadership and our responsibility.
We give witness to God’s Truth that dazzles us and transforms us gradually.
If it does not have the words the cross, prayer, or communion of the saints. I have put out to the recycling ben.
Conclusion
You may have wondered during my sermon why I had images of stain glass and an image of Jesus on a cross. Well, for one, I love stain glass windows. I love how they draw the worshipers’ eye to imagine God and his kingdom. I love how stain glass transforms a mundane space into something that feels heavenly, spiritual, other. I love these stain glass windows because of who did them and what the represent.
Marc Chagall a Jewish artist did a series of windows called the 12 tribes of Israel. My wife and I were blessed to go and seem them at the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. Blessed to see up close what Chagall envisioned, a heavenly colony of 12 tribes and each tribe embedded with it’s heavenly words and symbols. He understood Israel as God’s heavenly colony in the country of death. He knew what this meant and embedded into his stain glass.
These windows were in a hospital where soldiers were healing from wounds, the elderly were dying, the ill were in a battle, life was being born, life was being taken away. Their in the hospital bot the sounds of joy for new life and mourning for death, the sounds desperate prayer for an extension on a life and the sound of loved ones thanking God for the extension.
That colony of heaven is what I saw in those windows of the twelve tribes.
Marc Chagall also painted this painting called the White Crucifixion. He was ostracized from the Jewish community for painting Jesus as a Jew, the most pre-eminent of Jews, suffering, dying, being accepted by God, on behalf of the colony of heaven that had suffered so much in the country of death. On the painting you see the historic pogroms against the Jews, synagogues and homes being burned, lives lost, and gas chambers sending up departed spirits. Marc Chagall understood that God gave Jesus to the cross and I believe he understood that the cross gave the colony of heaven to the world so we could witness to that love, to our part in this story. This colony and our part in this story requires the Holy Spirit.
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