2015-05-24 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
Echo the Story #36 of 36: Finalé
“We are the Echo!”
How far we’ve come!
Look at the journey…on the front cover of your bulletin…
For some of us, this has been a 3-year cycle through the GodStory…but most recently it’s been this 36-week journey
From Genesis to the Early church & Revelation…
And one of the big points we’ve been trying to make is this…
It’s a story! Way back in September, we were talking about Peter Enns’ book “The Bible Tells Me So”…creating a landscape where we would hear the Bible as story and not try to ask things of the Bible that it was not written to answer (ie. Does the Bible support a literal 7-day creation and do all the scientific facts about the world need to be answered in the Bible?).
And the 2nd big point that we’ve tried to emphasize is…
God is the protagonist…God is at work in the world…making all things new.
And the 3rd big point…
We are the NPOG…the new people of God ECHO THE STORY of the people of God…and we JOIN God in God’s restoring, “make all things new”, work in the world.
And HOW do we do that?
– by telling people how to follow the rules? (that’s what got the early church into all types of arguments!)
– No, we do it by “echoing” and keeping in step with the SPIRIT (Galatians 5)
– We keep in step with Spirit and “echo the story” of God’s heart, love, mercy, grace and forgiveness for the world and all the cosmos…
So that’s what we’ve been doing for the past 36 weeks…hearing/imagining how God (Trinity) hovered over the chaos of the cosmos and breathed creation into being…and then story after story we saw God, the protagonist, on the move…creating, relating, cringing, re-creating, re-considering, promising, planting, prodding, providing, and breathing, again and again, upon the earth and the people of the earth…
How have we grown in our understanding of the Story of God? [creation, rebellion, Israel, Jesus, NpoG ]
– – – – –
This larger understanding of the story should also help with ALL future stories that you hear…when you read any portion of the Bible, you have a place to fit it in in the larger story! No more reading scripture out of context, trying to make the Bible say whatever you want it to say…
No more being “immobilized” by a weird portion of the scripture and feeling like you need to throw it out because it’s too complicated, too contradictory, too confusing, too mean, too nice, too….theoretically, there IS a way to “echo” every story in the Bible…cool huh?
Let’s experiment! Come up with the part of the story that you’ve never understood and we’ll see how we might not “run away from it” but “run towards it” and try to make sense of it in the context of the bigger story going on…
[ time of sharing ]
* * * * *
First off, let’s try to put to practice what we’ve just learned about fitting into the bigger story – –
Pentecost isn’t some stand-alone event that marks the beginning of something brand new. Yes, new and strange things we’re happening, but it’s all a part of God’s continuing story on earth!
So when people say, “We’re gonna fix the church and go back to Acts 2”…I say…uhhh, really? Was that a fix? People we’re sinning and disobeying in Acts 2 just as much as they were in Genesis 2 weren’t they?
So Pentecost is a continuation of what God has been unraveling for thousands of years…
Even the breath of God breathing upon the people of God…ain’t nothing new! It could have been the same breath that breathed into the nostrils of AdAm…this fresh wind and fresh fire were the elements that had been blowing, howling and startling humankind since the story began!
* * * * *
In today’s story we drop into the world of the disciples 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection…
The disciples have been on the run for weeks! It feels like months, but it’s only 10 days ago that they had witnessed Jesus taken to heaven in a whirlwind of light and dust. Those final words still rang in John’s ears… “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set…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.”
Today, on Pentecost weekend, John longs for more of that power. Why couldn’t Jesus just stay with us and let us feel his power in person? What is this mysterious promise that he kept on telling us when he talked of the “advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send…the Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all that have said to you…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…do not let your hearts be troubled.”
Ahhhh, peace!? John wonders and watches… today he’ll feast with his fellow disciples… to celebrate Moses and the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai! He’ll be eating, drinking and making merry… Shavuot! Yet…that promise of peace feels so elusive…
It’s getting noisy in the house… over 100 people gather in his in-laws 2-story dwelling and though it’s mid-morning there’s already a tone of anticipation and expectation brewing…
But now something more than just house noise erupts…a fierce wind howls just outside the window…John rushes to look out and suddenly “vrooooooosh!”
Women and men scream and shout! John is knocked to his knees, his eyes forced shut by blasts of relentless wind…he squints and feels the wind settling but what’s left behind are flames of fire…John wipes his eyes and refocuses…yes, blazing flames of fire on and around each person in the upper room …and yet the flames do not consume them!
And as the shrieks and shouts subside…the flames fade away…and the disciples open their mouths…murmuring a multitude of languages…some John has heard before but others sound foreign and ancient… [imagine their expressions! ]
Filled with terror(?) and adrenaline, the multi-lingual house party spills out into the streets of Jerusalem…the 100 disciples speak and shout their new languages and immediately crowds begin to press in upon them…
God-fearing Jews, utterly amazed, begin to ask:
“Aren’t all these who are speaking simple Galileans?”
“How is it that each of us hears in our own mother tongue?”
“They are speaking our language, speaking of God’s mighty works, what does this mean?”
Other doubters in the crowd sneer and say, “They are drunk on cheap wine!”
The hysteria and befuddlement continues…people talking back and forth…some wide-eyed and taking it all in…others with eyes ½ cocked, mocking and suspicious…
In the midst of the ruckus, Peter, climbs up the edge of a door arch and begins shouting at the crowd…
Listen! Listen! We are not drunk! Listen!! [Andrew, Phillip, Thomas, Matthew, Bartholomew…shush…]
It’s only 9 in the morning! We are not drunk!
It amazes me too! Jesus told us that the Kingdom of God is at hand!
And this is what was spoken through the words of our prophet, Joel:
“In the last days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Cut to the heart, some in the crowd ask, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
Many welcomed his message and were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They began a journey of devotion…to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
* * * * *
This same wind, this same breath, that breathed life into the nostrils of the AdAm and Eve…the first dust-beings…keeps on breathing new creation to life…in today’s story, more breath, more wind, more ruckus…and more new life!
So I ask again, “how do we echo this story?”
This is not a work or a calling for experts. Did you read the “all” & the “everyone”?
-I will pour out my Spirit upon ALL flesh
-Sons, daughter, young men, old men, slaves, servants, men, women…they shall prophesy [speak truth in love on God’s behalf]
-EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved
-In today’s story and in all the stories in ACTS, we’ll see that the HS does NOT discriminate! The HS is an “equal-opportunity-employer”…and the Holy Ghost vocation is “speaking of God’s deeds.”
With this good news in mind…How do we echo the story?
Pony up [donkey?] beside a character…today, you might come alongside Peter…remember, this guy’s past? Jesus-double/triple-crosser and denier!
Dwell in the world of this story – – feel Peter’s amazement, revelation, reckless joy, gratitude, wonder…and then speak a good, true, gracious word on behalf of this God of ours…a God of radical welcome, inclusion, and mercy…a God who doesn’t wait for us to be good enough or holy enough to pass the “GodWorthy-5-star-standard of excellence” but a God who comes to us, who speaks to us in our language, who breathes his Spirit upon us and says (echoing the words of David, Psalm 16):
“I will NOT abandon you…I will make known to you the ways and the paths of life;
in my presence there is fullness of joy.”
On Pentecost Sunday, let the wind of the Spirit blow and breathe upon us…
Spirit of the Living God, fill us…startle us! Amaze us! Confound us!
But then also SEND us…to a world, to a co-worker, to a friend, to a stranger – – that we might gush forth the good news…. God lives…and God loves…this is the good news story…and we are the echo, echo, echo…