ďThe Power of GodĒ
We are two weeks away from one of the most important days for the church Ė Pentecost, the day when God breathed Godís spirit into the first believers and gave life to the church.†
For the last five weeks, we have been making a transition, if you will, from Easter to Pentecost.† In this time, we have been reminded that the message of Easter is more than just about one day, itís about our ongoing hope and testimony of the promise of God that we have eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.†
But, we have also been reminded of something else as well, that we are Easter people precisely because it is the Spirit of the living Christ who calls us to be Easter people.† Jesus is the Lord of life, not because the tomb was empty, but because Jesus is the living Lord of life, who calls us to always follow him and testify to the truth of his gospel.† This is the transition we have been going through for the last five weeks, the transition from Easter to Pentecost, from Easter people to Spirit-filled people, from faith to testimony.
††††††††† But what makes this transition even possible in the first place?† What event makes it possible for us to be able to not only speak the testimony of God, but also be a church that puts Godís testimony to action?† For us in the church, it is the ascension of Jesus Christ, when Jesus was lifted up to sit at the right hand of God.
††††††††† Without the ascension of Jesus Christ to the Father, Pentecost would be meaningless, and as we shall see next week, the promise of Jesus himself would be nullified.† The ascension of our Lord stands as the testimony that Jesus did not just fade off into the sunset after the Resurrection, but became the living Lord of life, the living and active Lord that is present with us even now.†
Much has been written about the historical Jesus, about his life on earth, about how he might have lived and worked, what he might have worn and eaten, and even about what he might have really said to those who followed him.† This search for the historical Jesus is all well and good and important for Biblical study, but it has also left many people wondering about the truth of the one who is our Lord and Savior, and grasping for their own identity.††
If all Jesus is to us is an historical figure, then we are most to be pitied, because it means that we are left to fend for ourselves, to decide for ourselves what is the purpose of our creation and the meaning of our identity as Godís children.† We confess Jesus is Lord, not just because Jesus walked the earth, and not just because Jesus was raised from the dead, but also because God seated him at Godís right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but in the age to come.† It is the churchís confession and belief and testimony that Jesus Christ was more than just a traveling, Jewish peasant, but that he is the very Son of God, the Word of God incarnate, who even now lives and reigns with God and the Holy Spirit in the eternal realm.
The power of God that is at work in the lives of the faithful is a reminder for us that our Christian faith is not just based on the events of the past, but on Godís testimony about the present, about what is happening now.† It is Godís testimony that God in Jesus Christ is living and active in the world today through the Spirit of the living Christ, that God is even now still electing, still saving, still reconciling, still redeeming all of Godís creation.
The power of God is another testimony, a powerful testimony about the importance of Jesusí ascension to those who believe.† It is Paulís prayer for the believers that they come to know what the power of God means in their lives of faith, because it is through the power of God in Jesus Christ that they have come to know him, the hope to which they have been called, the riches of his inheritance that has been given to them, and the immeasurable greatness of his power to those who believe.†
††††††††† For Paul, the ascension is not just about the lifting up of Jesus Christ in glory and honor and power; the ascension of Jesus Christ is the declaration that they too have been lifted up by that same power.† The same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at Godís right hand is the very same power that lifts up the church to divine significance.†
In fact, Paul is so confident of the divine significance of the church that he is willing to make a bold and startling claim that the fullness of God doesnít just dwell in the church, but that it is the church!† The power of God not only lifts up the church, but it makes the church the very instrument of Godís saving power at work in the world.†
††††††††† The divine significance of this testimony is truly astounding.† Can it really be possible that the church is the fullness of God?† Isnít it rather arrogant for us to think this highly of ourselves?† Certainly, we know that history has shown too many times what can happen when a church thinks too highly of itself.† Certainly, we can attest to the problems that can come when one group of people think they have claim on the truth, that they are the saved ones, with special status and privilege.† Do we dare think we are that important to God and Godís plan of salvation? †Brothers and sisters, how dare we think otherwise!
††††††††† The churchís temptation is not that it thinks too highly of itself, but that it thinks to low of itself, that it thinks it doesnít have divine significance.† We cannot ever believe that the church is insignificant to the work of God in the world.† We cannot ever believe that the church has no real role to play in salvation history, or that the faithfulness of our lives is a matter for only God and ourselves.†
We the church are the key to Godís very plan of salvation.† Through us, the very power of God is at work to save the entire cosmos.† We must always be cautious that we donít make ourselves equal with Christ.† The church does not serve itself.† The church, you and I, serve Jesus Christ.† He is the ascended and glorified and living Lord.†††
††††††††† But, Paul reminds us, that we are his body in the world, his very hands and feet, his very heart and mind.† We are the way in which the living Lord continues to make himself know to the world in human history.† By the grace of God, the church is not left to fend for itself or come up with its own mission and ministry or faith and life.†
Through the power of God, we the church have been made the bodily presence of the Spirit of the living Christ.† To belittle ourselves and seek to make the church only a private affair between God and ourselves, we deny our own vocation.† Thanks be to God that God has chosen to call the church into existence.† Thanks be to God that God has chosen to give Christís church flesh and blood.† Thanks be to God that God has breathed the Spirit into us, and has made us the vehicle and instrument of salvation for all of creation.
††††††††† It is the power of God at work in us and through us that we must always remember that nothing we do in the church is just for the sake of doing it.† Everything we do, from traditional practices to new practices, should always be done with intentionality behind it, because everything we do has divine significance.†
Coming to Sunday school and worship, giving of our money, time, talents and ourselves, actively participating in the life and ministry of the community of faith, living and growing as disciples, sharing the good news with others, preaching the good news of the gospel with words and actions, and testifying to the truth of Jesus Christ Ė all has divine significance, for all of what we do in the church is a testimony to the power of God at work.†
††††††††† Even ringing the bell Sunday morning has divine significance and is a testimony to the power of God at work.† The ringing of the bell is so much more than just a time piece to signal 11am, it is the churchís testimony to the whole community that God has called Godís people to worship and that this particular church is answering that call.† By ringing the bell, we make a bold claim about the one who lives and reigns over our lives of faith.†
On Pentecost Sunday we will change our order of worship as a testimony and proclamation of the power of God at work here at Finley.† On Pentecost Sunday, the very first act we will do in worship is to ring the bell as a communal call to worship, then we will have the prelude music for us to prepare our hearts and minds for worship.
It is our proclamation to the community in which we live that Jesus Christ is Lord, that he alone has the power to transform and change the lives of all those who believe in him, that he alone has the power to shape and direct the character of every moment of our lives, that he alone has the power to bring our community, this nation, and the world abundant and eternal life.† Amen.†† †††††††