“Moving Forward”

Pentecost! May 31, 2020

John 20:19-23

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 20:19-23

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Prayer.

Welcome to Pentecost!

This is the day we’re called to burn the house down,

To start fresh, new, and live life as if there were no rules;

As if there was only complete submission

to the movement of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s will.

This is the day we allow ourselves to be taken away

Completely, wholly, and without reservation

To be shaped and formed as God’s living vessel,

Through which God can work to bring about God’s kingdom.

Pentecost, from the Greek, literally means the “fiftieth day” after the resurrection.

Jesus appeared risen from the dead

no less than five times during this fifty-day period.

As we heard last Sunday,

Jesus ascended into heaven

To be seated at the right hand of the Father.

The first crisis hit the disciples square between the eyes:

“now what do we do?”

To best appreciate this question

It is helpful to view the very real crisis of what to do next

Through the lens of baptism.

Remember when John baptized Jesus in the Jordan.

His baptism, remarkably similar to the practice of other religions of his day,

Was for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

One was washed clean of their past wrongs, sins, and shortcomings.

One was cleansed,

Made ceremonially clean,

Returned to a righteous state,

And was reunited with family, neighbors, and faith.

In John’s case, baptism was very Jewish,

Deeply rooted in the Law of Moses,

And was an opportunity to start fresh and new.

John’s baptism was about cleaning up the mess we made in our past.

In John’s testimony, he says about Jesus,

“I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34)

The Spirit descends upon Jesus,

Claims him,

“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased”

Strengthens him, and

Guides him as he begins his earthly ministry.

In one fleeting moment

On the rustling Jordan waters

Baptism was transformed

FROM looking back,

Fixing what was wrong

TO moving forward,

Being filled with the Holy Spirit to do God’s work.

Immediately before Jesus ascends

He commissions his disciples to

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19)

Baptism for the repentance of sins was looking backwards.

But now,

Baptism in the Spirit became all about

Moving forward.

Most of us have been baptized by both water and the Holy Spirit

(If you haven’t, contact me, because God wants it to happen).

During uncertain times

There are great questions about

What does the future hold?

Where are we to go?

What are we to do?

How is God calling us to make disciples of all the world?

For many of us, this is a huge leap of faith moving forward.

Many of us attend church and participate in missions and ministry for personal benefit, such as

A sense of community,

Friendship for life’s spiritual journey,

Support for one another during life’s more difficult times, and

The joy of celebrating the best of God’s blessings we are privileged to experience.

This is important, YES!

Yet, this is only answering half the call of Jesus.

Faith only focused inward is destined to die.

Faith, filled with the breath of the Holy Spirit,

Becomes life giving faith;

Disciple making faith.

Faith that embraces the world, starts right with the next breath.  

Faith in practice fishes for disciples,

Leads disciples to Jesus, and

Welcomes every new disciple into the loving arms of our Savior’s redemption and salvation.

Pentecost is not a call to begin door-to-door evangelism.

Pentecost is, however, the opportunity to be energized by the Holy Spirit and begin to move forward,

Fulfilling Christ’s great commission to each of us

To make disciples of all nations.

Like the first post-ascension disciples we ask,

“Where do we begin?”

As a student of history,

– as one who believes God works in and through history –

I believe we can look to those early disciples,

Soon to be Apostles,

And learn from their examples.

We begin by learning what the Apostles did.

First, Holy Spirit empowered Apostles from a Jewish background stayed in Jerusalem and attended to their Jewish traditions:

Teaching, learning, attending Temple or synagogue daily.

Then, they returned to their homes

To retell the Gospel, the Good News, of Christ.

Early Apostles gave witness to the death, resurrect          1      tion, and ascension of Jesus.

They celebrated Holy Communion, as a common meal, to maintain the memory of who they were and

who was individually and collectively calling them.

Holy Spirit empowered Apostles from a Gentile background

Left Jerusalem and returned to their hometowns.

Others moved to other cities,

Cities like Antioch, Athens, Alexandria, and Rome.

There, they also retold the Good News amongst themselves.

This solidified the story and strengthened their witness to others.

They also celebrated Holy Communion whenever they met

To build their identity as Christ’s called and commissioned Apostles.

Moving forward,

Larger society noticed Spirit filled disciples.

They noticed that people who followed Jesus Christ

Were different from everyone else.

They were different than faithful Jews.

They were different than pagans, also quite common, especially in rural areas.

They were different than the Greek and Roman middle class,

Who recognized a different god for every aspect of life.

And they were certainly different than empire-growing Caesar worshippers.

Roman leaders attempted to unite a trans-cultural, expanding empire.

Jesus followers were different.

They were known by their love.

People noticed they loved one another.

And they loved people other than their friends and families.

In fact, they set a new standard for loving

The least, the lost, the left behind.

Early Christ followers loved the poor, the homeless, the sick and the diseased.

First generation Apostles took in widows and orphans,

And fed the hungry wherever they found them.

People noticed.

They took notice of the fact that Spirit filled disciples of Jesus reached out beyond themselves,

Placed the needs of others first,

And became servants of all.

The early Apostles were united by love,

Proclaiming love and practicing love of God, love of neighbor, even, love for enemies.

People rejected hypocrisy and embraced authenticity.

Authenticity made disciples of Jesus Christ in the first century

And authenticity makes disciples today.

While they were united by love,

There was a lot that was internally debated.

There was no precedence.

No creeds.

No Bible or sacred texts.

There wasn’t even an agreed-on method of organization, leadership, finance, or growth.

It was simple.

Love God, love neighbor.

Proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ,

Witness to the fact of his resurrection,

And gather to celebrate Holy Communion.

It can be this simple today.

A Church of Christ followers,

Without one single building, I might add,

Utilizing the advanced transportation technology of the era,

– Mediterranean shipping –

Propagated Christianity to every nation,

Exactly as Christ commissioned,

Using the guidance, support, and strength of the Holy Spirit

Which filled them on this Pentecost Sunday.

This is how the Spirit of Jesus

Gave birth to the Church.

So, what does Pentecost mean for us

Moving forward?

Here are some simple tactics we can apply right now:

1. Focus on the poor and most vulnerable.

Serve.

Love.

Give.

Give it away, generously, joyfully,

Knowing that God always provides and we will be replenished.

The poor will come,

– who doesn’t want to be loved? –

And so, too, will the rich,

Because they will also see how wonderful it is to be a loving, giving disciple of Jesus.

The happiest people

Both rich and poor

Are those who love and give generously.

2. Be different.

Practice what you preach.

Avoid being the hypocrite everyone points to and laughs at.

Talk the talk and walk the walk.

Be honest, truthful, and moral.

Be authentic.

Treat everyone kindly, especially those who despise you.

You don’t have to like everyone,

But you do have to love them.

Love everybody.

Make the extra effort to love the less advantaged.

3. Like Mediterranean shipping and commerce,

Leverage the technology of today to advantage the Church.

Covid-19 is propelling the Church forward at warp speed

Into new and exciting digital spaces,

Whether we like it or not.

Get savvy with social media, web pages, and video streaming.

Hit the “SHARE” button so the rest of the world can SHARE our love and

SHARE a relationship with Jesus.

Embrace diverse methods of communications

Because everyone communicates differently:

Some print, others text, others YouTube, Facebook, some Twitter.

Embrace them all,

As if each platform is God’s gift to the Church.

Because they are.

4. Witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus died to take away past sins.

Jesus rose from the dead to give eternal life.

That’s the 5 second elevator message.

Moving forward.

Witness.

Share the story.

Leave the rest up to the Spirit.

Let God do the convincing.

5. Proclaim the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Gather regularly, frequently, to worship.

Give praise and thanks to God,

Through the work of proclaiming the Good News and

Celebrating Holy Communion.

Beloved friends,

This is our commission

Directly from the lips of Jesus.

Today, we are reminded and refreshed

By the power and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

We have all that we need.

The rest is up to us.

Let us move forward.

Amen.

One thought on ““Moving Forward”

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