June 5, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’” (Luke 24.45-49)
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2.12)
On Friday, I asked, “Do you know what happened seven weeks ago?” I was attempting to draw our attention to the fact that seven weeks prior was “Good Friday” in the midst of the Holy Week celebration declared by the Church. I would ask that same question with a different focus, as you might well imagine, today. Do you know what happened seven weeks ago today? Hopefully, you would answer “EASTER: Resurrection Sunday.” As followers of the Christ of God, our Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, Easter/Resurrection Sunday is the time stamp for our “Ground Zero.” It is not Good Friday, the day of sacrifice for our sins. It is not Sabbath Saturday, the day of grieving for our loss (should have been a celebration of what was to come). It is Easter/Resurrection Sunday when the blessing of having faith in God is revealed in all its earthly fullness. It is a day which declares our ability to live in a broken world with confidence and surety. It is a day of holy, to borrow a phrase from Star Trek, “boldly going where no man/person has gone before.”
Wait, you say. Where on earth were they able to go that they hadn’t gone before? Sure, there were lands they believed no one had seen before. But, to a place where no one had been? Perhaps, you will consider that what Jesus has offered is not so much geographical in nature but spiritual. Would it make better sense to say “to boldly go where no Christ-believing man/person had gone before”? Who had gone into the world before Jesus with the gospel of Jesus? I can think of a few from the gospel story itself such as the leper who was healed and returned to give thanks to God even before he would should himself to the priest for validation and verification. What about the Gadarene demonic who was sent back home into the Decapolis “across” the river? How about the Roman centurion or the man whose son frothed at the mouth and threw himself into the fire in front of the nine foot of the mountain disciples which Jesus and three mountaintop disciples were being exposed to the glory of God? Let’s just say “that’s local.” What about a longer distance; say, to the corners of the earth and the furthest stretches of the world? To take the gospel of Jesus which was about forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, transformation and eternal salvation as one’s identity was not done before Easter/Resurrection Sunday. There was, and is, still a lot of territory to cover.
Stop, I say. Don’t look to the heavens and think of distant star systems as now the focus of the gospel. The world in which we live changes on a daily basis. The antagonistic element of this world continues to create communities and community dwellers who have not truly heard the gospel of Jesus the Christ. Even at fault as some elements of the “Church” because they spoke more of their kingdom and not of God’s kingdom. They were motivated by their will and not of God’s will. Oh sure, they said it was God’s will and God’s kingdom but their hypocrisy was made visible when their actions spoke louder than “the Word.” Can you imagine saying “Hush, Jesus, you’re dead aren’t you?” Out of sight is out of mind? We would have to be out of our minds to entertain such an imagining. Easter/Resurrection Sunday puts the gospel on the map beginning in Jerusalem. How I would love to be in Jerusalem this Pentecost Sunday. How I would love to be in the Temple courts and standing where Peter stood looking across to where the High Priest was offering another useless sacrifice for future prosperity. He was investing in death. Peter was invested with life. Both had witnessed the boldness of Jesus. One embraced death as the final answer. One feared death would be the failing answer. Where was the “yes”? The “yes” was in the empty tomb, the consequence of an empty cross. But, as we know from one of Jesus’ teachings about empty and desolate spaces, there is a full-filling. In the story of the man making his house clean of evil spirits, there is a failing. He did not fill it up. He was as bad as the Temple leadership whom Jesus called “white-washed tombs.” Jesus wasn’t speaking of the outside of the tombs but the inside. They lived their lives as if nothing had ever touched it before. The ugliness of death, the consequence of sin, had never been there. But, in truth, they dwelt in those tombs because they were already dead. They had surrendered their lives to a death which had no life. Peter, had seen the other side of the story. In the tomb where Jesus had been laid, the grave clothes remained. They were stained with His blood. Bits of His flesh may have adhered to the bindings. But, they were neatly wrapped and stacked and put in order. In other words, death had been put in its place and no longer had a hold on Him. It no longer had a hold on any who would believe in Him and His resurrection made possible by having faith in the promise of God!
But, that was but a moment. There was another moment which came at Pentecost. When the story of the man who cleaned his house proceded, the evil spirit that was driven out (read scapegoat) went into the desolate places. There it found company for its misery. Together they had their own boldness to go back to where the spirit had come from. They were looking for a place to reside. When they came to the house it was empty. Aristotle proposed “there were no vacuums” which led others to coin the phrase “nature abhors a vacuum.” That means if there is an emptiness, someone or something is going to fill it. And so it happened. The evil spirit returns to the original house and the fate of that house was worse than ever. Hmmm…white-washed tombs. Pentecost and “business as usual in the Temple” white-washed tombs. Jesus had been “gone” for seven weeks. Talk of His resurrection had seemed to subside. All seemed safe to “return to normal.” What a terrible phrase made even more popular today! Hopefully we will see the futility of such a desire due to this reflection. It was “business as normal” that drove us to the situation in which we are now in. Why go back to days that were fostering the problem we are in. How far back do we need to go before everything would seem “normal”? Don’t we realize that the world on earth from the moment of the “fall,” became abnormal? It spoke of death and living life on eggshells. There was always a mad scramble to hold on to life. At one point, even God regretted He ever made humanity because their penchant for evil had become so intrusive, invasive and devastating. Save for the grace of God, we would not be alive today. Noah was a story of filling a tomb with life. So, too, was Jonah. So, too, was Jeremiah. So, too, were Ezra and Nehemiah. But, ultimately it was always about Jesus. All these events pointed to the One True Moment. And it wasn’t really about resurrection which emptied a tomb. It was about Pentecost which filled the emptiness to overflowing and gave us the opportunity to truly gain a “normal” life.
Normal? Yes, a life that seeks the righteousness of God in His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. Even in the midst of the chaos of a world that is empty and trying to fill itself with further emptiness, there is a full-filling opportunity. It comes with the indwelling and on-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is a blessing and gift which has been freely bestowed upon all who would believe it and receive it. It is the promised Spirit of Christ from God. It is a Spirit of Life which knows no end. Death could not contain it. Death cannot capture it. Death cannot limit it. Death cannot steal away the power that it has. It is a power of resurrection, reconciliation, restoration, revelation and reflection. It is the power by which Peter stood in the Temple Court that morning of Pentecost and spoke the truth in love. “Choose this day whom you will serve: those who take life or the One who gives life!” The people who heard and saw the Word that day cried out “What shall we do to have this life?” Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus!” Thousands responded. The sound of it must have been as powerful in the Temple court as the sound of the rushing of the fiery wind in the Upper Room. It is that same powerful sound I pray jwill today come over those who believe in Jesus as the Christ of God, our Messiah and Savior. Purge the emptiness with the fullness of the Holy Spirit and live in spirit and in truth. Let this be the age in which we now live in Jesus’ name.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father God, into Your hands we commit our spirit. We surrender our all and the hold we think we have on this world so that we may grasp the truth of what You have promised in Jesus’ name. We know this truth is the truth that can set all people free from the torment of sin. We ask that Your Spirit become even more present to our thinking and our doing so that the world in which we live but are not of can find the fruit of the Spirit and live with us and accept us with them. Come, Holy Spirit, come. AMEN.