Called to Act
Sunday, April 26, 2020
Pastor Mark Aune
Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen
The book of Acts is named with a verb.
Sometimes it is referred to as The Acts of the Apostles.
To act is to do something.
Acts begins with the Apostle’s doing nothing.
They are waiting and wondering if the time had finally arrived for God to establish the Kingdom that they longed for. The kingdom Jesus spoke about.
They ask Jesus this very question in chapter 1 – “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
What they thought was the ending to the Jesus story after His death and resurrection was in fact, the beginning. It was now time to act. They just didn’t know what the kingdom would look like.
He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.”
In effect Jesus is telling them to trust God because God has a plan and Jesus tells them you will receive power.
Jesus promises to equip them for what will come next.
This is important for us to remember. Especially now. Jesus promises to equip us for what will come next. Even when we don’t what that will be or what it will feel like.
The power to act comes in chapter two. The Day of Pentecost arrives, and the gift of the Holy Spirit is given, and the church is born.
Acts is the story of how the church comes into existence and then learns how to live out its mission in the world as witnesses to Jesus.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses.
Today’s story is a witness to that power. Today’s story is the church in action.
Peter and John are going to the temple to worship at 3 in the afternoon. They don’t know what they will find when they get to the temple.
There is a man at the Beautiful gate who is begging. He’s been there all day. Every day someone carries him to that place and sets him down so he can ask for alms, money.
When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. 4 Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”
Remember, this is right after Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit has arrived.
These two Jesus followers have power.
They have begun to live into something new. Peter and John don’t know it yet, but they have begun to model what Jesus means when he said you will be my witnesses.
Living into something new. That should resonate with us right now.
Uncharted waters. The new normal. This difficult time. This uncertain time.
I’m not sure how helpful these phrases are to describe what we are all going through because it is both different and the same for all of us.
Some days I feel as lost as you do and so untethered that I’m not even sure what to do with myself. So, I keep showing up as best I can. I keep reminding myself that I am not in control and that’s ok.
And I try and do my best each day to remember what Jesus promised His followers before that first Pentecost. A promise that is just as true today as it was back then.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.
What captured your imagination in the exchange between Peter, John and the beggar?
I am intrigued by the exchange between them.
When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. The beggar had an immediate need. He wanted enough money so he could eat that day. This is what he was thinking about. This was his expectation.
What happens next is the part I really like.
Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.
What did he expect? Alms. Money for food.
But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”
The key phrase; “but what I have I give you.”
Remember that phrase and ask yourself – what is it that I have right now, that I can give?
What can I give? Start close to home; to family, spouse, children.
Look further out to a neighbor or a friend, to a community need.
What is that I have right now that I can give?
I know a business owner who business is closed right now. He sent me an email telling me how he is answering this question.
Still adjusting to being non-essential. The shop is closed per the Governor’s orders, but I still get up every morning, shower, brush my teeth and go in to check on the shop. The Lord is still by my side which is good because there is no one at home, at work, or anywhere else.
I pray at the labyrinth garden almost daily. I stop at Marthaler Park and commune with the ducks and birds. They have bluebirds there.
What I have, in this moment, on this day, I give you.
This is what Jesus means when he says, you shall be my witnesses. Solitude. Prayer. Nature. A daily routine. School at home. A phone call to a friend. Showing up for work. Even when work is dangerous, and we are frightened.
And as our text tells us we should expect the unexpected. The beggar was healed, and he gave what he had when he began walking and leaping and praising God. That is bearing witness. Peter and John came to a new understanding of the power the Holy Spirit had given them to heal someone.
What might you expect as you use this power God has given you?
How are you bearing witness to the resurrection in your life right now?
It may feel like we can do nothing but that is just not true. We just need to readjust our focus. Look intently at a new thing. See the world’s need in a new way.
And trust in the power God has given you.
To witness to God’s love.
To point to resurrection in all its forms.
To believe and understand, deep in your bones, that you do have something to give and that together, we are still the church.
For the power of the Holy Spirit and the joy of bearing witness to the resurrected Christ, we say thanks be to God. Amen