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Sunday, September 16, 2018
Scripture: Acts 2
Rev. Jill VanderWal

What sort of a traveler are you?

Or more specifically, what type of a packer are you?  Do you pack days or weeks ahead? I have often thought about mission as something I must intentionally prepare for and have a strategy for in order to be well prepared. This means there is a long runway for the plan. I need to be ready, fully packed and prepared or there may be a disaster. Does the stress of planning ever get in the way of just going?

I imagine this is exactly how the disciples felt, they knew they were sent to go and tell but they were waiting for something Jesus had promised – the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I wonder if they were thinking, “How exactly are we supposed to do what Jesus did?” John 14:12: Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

While the idea of mission, of being sent, may sound daunting, Scripture consistently tells us about a God who sends. Pentecost continues this story…but the power and fire of the Holy Spirit adds rocket fuel to the story.   

From God’s sending of Abram in Genesis 12 to the sending of his angel in Revelation 22, the Bible communicates the message that God is a sending God. In the Old Testament the Hebrew verb “to send,” is used two hundred times with God as the subject of the verb.  God commissions and sends people to show his redemptive plan. In the New Testament Jesus is sent from God to communicate the message of God’s truth, his story, and his love. And now in Acts chapters one and two, Jesus ascends to heaven and leaves the disciples with the command to go and share this message with the world.

This is a great reminder of the very nature of the church. In an age when we are tempted to be attractional….to have great preachers, to provide inspirational music, to have the best cookies in town, the book of Acts reminds us that it’s about going out and being out in the world. We are called to be the yeast in the bread, the salt and the light.  The main point is that a sending God, the God who sent Jesus, also sends us. We are sent to our families, our neighbors, schools, communities and sometimes around the world.

Who is sent? Pastors? Missionaries? Everyone is sent.

Pentecost speaks to the inclusive and vast vision for the kingdom of God…ALL FLESH.

The prophecy of Joel is quoted—

‘In the last days it will be, God declares,

that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

and your young men shall see visions,

and your old men shall dream dreams.

18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,

in those days I will pour out my Spirit;

and they shall prophesy.

White, black, brown, with no regard of gender, or education, or status…slave or free. ALL flesh is filled, gifted, equipped as they are sent out. In the most practical way – they can speak and understand all foreign languages. I love the image of
“I will pour…and children will prophesy, young will see visions, old shall dream dreams.”

The Holy Spirit transforms what we speak, what we see, and what we hold in our hearts.

The Power of the Holy Spirit fuels a new way of being and living. The Holy Spirit is the small voice that nudges us, the person, project, or cause that weighs on our heart; the person or thing we see that no one else notices. I believe the more we listen to and follow the prompts of the Holy Spirit, the more we give the voice space to grow, and we learn how to live with it, by it, and in its power.

So mission, and being ready to head out, is not about the bag we pack or the stuff we carry on our back. It’s nothing really external. If we follow a sending God, we will be filled with the Spirit of love; we will be filled with power and fire. We will be sustained by the fire we carry within. To some this may seem like a wild, reckless, and risky travel plan. Just GO, and the Holy Spirit will direct you. And that is what the disciples did.

Eternal Flame

The eternal flame was a component of the Jewish religious rituals performed in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple in Jerusalem, where a commandment required a fire to burn continuously upon the Outer Altar.  There are monuments of an eternal flame around the world. They represent and honor different things. We have a reminder here in this sanctuary. The fire of God, which once lived in the temple now lives in us. This Holy fire burns within us, connecting us to God, Jesus and all those who have gone before us and will come after.  As you go out, listen and watch with an open heart – trusting the words of Isaiah 30:21 “And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”