Sermon 3 April 2016: “Now what?”

Text: Acts 1:1-14

How many of you remember the movie Forrest Gump? It was released in the 1990s and featured Tom Hanks playing Forrest Gump, the lovable-guy with a low IQ who found himself in extraordinary places and doing extraordinary things. You might remember the part in the movie when Forrest, after his life-long love Jenny leaves him yet again, he decided to go for a run and ends up running back and forth across America – for three and a half years. It becomes this really inspiring story, and people begin to start running with him, and he generates a pretty significant following as he continued to run across America.

Then there’s the scene when Forrest just stops in the middle of the road and says, “I’m kinda tired…I think I’ll go home now” and he just starts walking back to Alabama. His following stands there, stunned, until one guy shouts, “Just like that? What the hell are we gonna do now?”

What an emotional rollercoaster for the disciples: Jesus’ death, resurrection, his reappearing to them, and thinking this was the time Jesus was finally going to stick around and change things….he decides to take off, ascending into heaven. As the disciples watch Jesus float up into the sky, you have to wonder if they weren’t thinking, “What the heck are we gonna do now?”

Good question. But Jesus gave them a pretty straightforward answer before he takes off, “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.”

In other words, “Guess what folks? I’m going to keep this ball rolling. The same spirit that worked through me is going to work through you. You’re going to preach, teach, dine with sinners, perform miracles, and even raise the dead, just like me.”

 Yeah, you heard me right. We’ll have the power to perform miracles and even raise the dead.

Jerry Riewer was a Physical Education teacher in a small town in Minnesota. Like many teachers in small towns, Jerry took on a number of other roles: driver’s education instructor, cross-country coach, and baseball coach. In fact, Jerry was a successful coach, having guided 22 teams between the two sports to the State Tournament with 3 teams being crowned champions, and being honored as State Coach of the Year in both sports. Yet Jerry’s greatest role in the town is that for over 50 years, he’s taken care of the baseball field before and after practices and games. Raking, watering, mowing, chalking lines….he tirelessly spend hours and hours making sure that the field was always ready to play on and taken care of. Jerry was honored for his service a few years ago when the baseball field was renamed to Jerry Riewer Field.

For Jerry, it was “just doing a good deed.” Yet, long rains and even heavy snow that would flood the field and turn the infield into mud, and Jerry performed small miracles getting the field ready for practice and play. The even greater miracle perhaps: countless kids grew up on that field playing baseball and becoming young men, and a town had a place to gather, watch their kids, and be community together. Kids and families from all parts of town and even those who lived outside it on farms came to play and watch baseball….including this Minnesota farmkid. And some of those kids grew up in tough situations and because there was a baseball field to practice and play on, they went on to college and careers…..through Jerry’s “good deed,” lives were even raised from the dead.

I think so many of us go around do “good deeds,” but not really believing that they just might be miracles in their own right. Yet if we think about the real power of Jesus’ miracles, it wasn’t the magical deed itself, but what came out of it: unclean lepers, the blind and lame, hemorrhaging women were reconnected to the community. Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter were raised from the dead so that they could be joined with their loved ones in relationship again. This restoration of people back to community and relationship was the real power of Jesus’ miracles.

And as Jesus’ followers today, we’ve been empowered by the same Holy Spirit. Our simple “good deeds” might be the very miracles that Holy Spirit is working through us to restore and create relationships between people. And those miracles might be the very things that change lives, even save them perhaps, but also witness to the ends of the earth about the power of God to raise up new life and hope in all sorts of places and people.

I mean, such miracles might look like how we care for each other as church. Or how we truly welcome the stranger in our midst. It might look like the seemingly impossible task of feeding 5,000 people this year or keeping a preschool open for the sake of families when it would be a whole lot easier to just close it down. Such miracles can happen….and are happening.

So, what are you doing sitting there just staring? The Holy Spirit is out there performing all sorts of miracles, witnessing to the Kingdom of God in Portsmouth, Hampton Roads and to the ends of the earth. And who knows?  Those miracles, they might just happen through you. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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