This is a version of my sermon from April 19. It's a combination of what I said and wanted to say at both Our Savior's and Emmanuel. It is based upon Acts 1:1-14. It is from the first week of our Spring/Summer series going through the book of Acts.
One of my favorite movies is the Blues Brothers. This comedy is crude at times, and features some of best car crashes in cinematic history. But at its heart, it is about two musicians who drop everything because they are on a mission from God – or so they believe.
Elwood picks up his brother Jake when Jake gets out of prison. They go to the orphanage where they were raised and find out that the orphanage is going to be closed because it is behind on it’s tax bill. When they visit a church, Jake sees a vision that they have to reunite their band to play a concert to pay tax bill on orphanage.
They go to recruit their old band mates, all of whom have better jobs and have moved on. Jake and Elwood use two quotes to convince their band mates to come back, “We’re putting the band back together,” and “We’re on a mission from God.”
They draw all kinds of people into their plan by telling them, “We’re on a mission from God.” They convinced people of the importance of what they were doing. And after several car chases and the destruction of a lot of property, they are able to pay off the tax bill.
I’m not sure which group is more unlikely to be called to be on a mission from God, Jake and Elwood, or the group who is assembled in the Upper Room at the end of today’s reading.
Today we start a thirteen week series going through the book, the Acts of the Apostles. Acts is a sequel, or follow up to Luke’s Gospel, tells the story of the Disciples after Jesus ascends to the Father. It tells the stories and struggles of how they started the Early Church.
It begins with Luke’s introduction to his audience Theophilus, which means God lover – so, like Luke’s Gospel, it is dedicated to everyone who loves God. So this book is written just for you, all of you. Luke says that his first book was about all Jesus did and taught. This book is about what happened after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
Jesus is speaking to his disciples forty days after he was raised, and he tells them to stay in Jerusalem. Not many days from now, they will receive the Holy Spirit.
His disciples want to know when he’s coming back; Jesus them no one knows, but until then, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; & you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, & to the ends of the earth.
With that, Jesus ascends into the sky. Soon two men in white appear to ask why they still stand there. Jesus ascended and will descend in the same way. With that, the disciples go back to Jerusalem, to the upper room, presumably to the same room where they had the Last Supper with Christ. To the same room where Jesus appeared to them after his death.
All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. The disciples are joined by Jesus’ family, his mother and brothers, and certain women (whom we assume were those who went tomb). All of them are waiting for the promised Holy Spirit to come to them.
All of those who Jesus told to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit, all of those whom he commanded to be his witnesses to the world, all of them had rejected him. The eleven disciples denied and abandoned him. His family, mother and brothers, came to take him home because they thought he was crazy. But it is to them that Christ trusts his legacy. To them, he give the mission to be his witnesses.
And they go to wait and pray.
I think it is important for us to spend time in book of Acts now. I think it is important for us think about the mission of the church. I think this is a critical time for our churches and for The Church. I think we can learn from what the Disciples did to be witnesses to the end of the earth.
We are familiar with what and who witnesses are from legal proceedings. Witnesses tell what happened. They share their experiences so that others can understand, and use that knowledge to take action.
To be witnesses, they basically did three things.
They helped those who needed help. They provided for the widows and orphans. They healed and helped those who were sick. They embraced those who were pushed away to the margins of society.
They taught people about Jesus, who he was and what he did. They told about how he was the expression of God’s love to everyone.
They prayed. They were always asking what God wanted them to do, and for the strength and courage to do it. Some prayed as they faced martyrdom. Some prayed about where to go to spread the Good News. Some prayed about how and whom to bring into this growing community.
They helped. They taught. They prayed.
That was at the core of all of the Acts of the Apostles.
With those three things; helping, teaching and praying, they went about being witnesses to the end of the earth.
I don’t think that is too much to ask of us, the heirs of that commission; to help, to teach and to pray. I believe that as we think about how we can be witnesses in Greenwood and Longwood, in all of this area & to ends of earth, we need to start with those three actions.
We need to help those who need help.
We need to teach about how we feel God’s love and what it means to us.
We need to pray to do God’s will and for the strength to do what God wants us to do.
Sometimes, I don’t know if we understand the importance of what we as followers of Christ, as the modern day disciples, are called to do.
God’s love, forgiveness and grace are a gift freely given. They are not earned by what we do or don’t do. They are not lost by what we do or don’t do. They are given to us because God loves us.
But this limitless gift of love needs to be given away. We won’t run out of God’s love if we give it and share it with others.
Those people who don’t know, or don’t understand that God loves them, or who don’t believe that God can love them, need to be told and shown that they are beloved by God. They need to be helped. They need to be taught. They need to be prayed for.
It is a time for action. God needs witnesses in Greenwood and Longwood, in this area, and to the ends of the earth.
And we’re just the ones to do it.
It’s time to be witnesses; to tell of God’s love and to share it with those who need it.
We’re putting the band back together.
We’re on a mission from God. AMEN.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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