My reflections on Dave Fields’ sermon this morning, April 12, 2015…with implications.
In our continuing series based on ‘The Story’, we have moved into the period of time after the resurrection and ascension of Christ as described in Acts 1.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
In these few verses, Jesus answers the disciples’ question about the Kingdom of Israel with a promise that the Holy Spirit will come as a gift. The disciples asked a lower story, political question, and he answered from the upper story.
Dave talked about the tension between the kingdom already being here (this must have been confusing for the disciples) but at the same time, not yet here. Jesus’ act of becoming human was the initiation of God’s kingdom on earth (not Israel, in this case), and the work of bringing the kingdom more fully to bear here is ours. Even though the kingdom will not be fully realized until Jesus returns, we have work to do. In fact, that is our most meaningful work.
It is not for us to sit around in our comfy pews singing ‘que sera sera‘ like some sort of hyper-Calvinist channeling Doris Day, no, we have work to do.
Fortunately, we have help. dunamis is the greek word used to describe how the spirit will help us. It means that we will be supernaturally empowered and enabled for our purpose.
And what is that purpose? It is most clearly described in the Acts 1:8. Our mission is to be witnesses.
Notice that Luke doesn’t say that we will witness (as a verb), but that we will be witnesses (a noun). Our mission, our purpose, is a fundamental component of our identity as Christians. It is who we are, not what we do.
Dave talked about someone (somewhere…) who performed a whole bunch of baptisms…like 10,000 a year, and who claimed that the reason that Christianity was so attractive was that it led to changed lives, specifically in how husbands treated their wives. This is tremendously important.
Despite the significant gains we have made as a culture in empowering (there’s that word) women (my Grandmother wasn’t considered to be a person, according to the Canadian government), some of us are still mired in the belief that women are always less than men.
Culturally, this is manifest in myriad gruesome ways, from sex trafficking and sex-selection abortions to the overt sexualization of women and girls to constant micro-aggressions towards women in culture. This is especially evident to women who have the gall to express an opinion on the internet. Reactions from men can be brutal.
But it is also evident in the church, it is an identical attitude, but it’s passed off as much more spiritual, after all, men were created first, right? That can only mean that men are the authorities…amirite??!
A common argument from those who believe that only men can have authority in the church is to insist that it is not any difference in the identity of men compared to women, but a difference in role. The trouble for them is that the most important criterion they use to determine a person’s role is to ask what gender they are, and gender is a fundamental component of their identity. The contradiction should be obvious.
So, we are left with two things that are fundamental components of our identity, our gender and our mission. Some believe that our different genders determine our different missions (roles), but that is clearly impossible if men and women are equal in their being. Our mission is just as much a part of our identity as our gender is. Our mission, to be witnesses, is not determined by our gender, but by our identity as Christians.
Bottom: Creative Commons licensed (BY-ND) flickr photo by [Daniela Brown Photography]: http://flickr.com/photos/danibrownphotography/8037205589