May 16, 2021 “Just As God Intended”
“Just As God Intended”
“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”
~ John Calvin
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” ~Oscar Wilde
“Good intentions are not enough. They’ve never put an onion in the soup yet.” ~ Sonya Levien
A while back, I put a sign up in the Sheridan church that said something like: “Warning – anything that you post on Facebook can and will be used in a sermon.” So, fair warning, people. The fact is, when you are tasked once a week to come up with new ways to describe old familiar stories, just about anything helps: a radio interview, something you read, or even just a casual remark that tickles your sermon bone. Last week, Margie & I were in eastern So. Dakota to witness a Master’s degree celebration at Dakota State University. On the day before the big event, we gathered together for a meal. It was a full house complete with grandparents, brothers, sisters, and a whole raft of kids making a whole lot of noise. Outside the star of the show was cooking on the grill and it was a meat lover’s paradise: beef burgers, venison, antelope, bratwurst – you name it; it was jammed in there. I came out to compliment the cook when he said something that struck me funny: “Yea, we eat a lot of red meat around here,” he said, “just as God intended.” I didn’t think anything of it until two days later when we were discussing pickups, particularly Chevy trucks versus Toyota. I knew that the older brother had owned a couple Toyotas, but when I asked about it, I was promptly told, “No, he got rid of those and bought himself an American made truck, just as God intended.” Now, I’m a firm believer in verifying opinions that have been stated as a fact, but I didn’t run to the nearest Concordance to find the exact scriptures that instruct us to eat red meat and buy Chevy trucks. That would be silly. I suppose that “just as God intended” was only being used here to make a point; to give it a little oomph – a little pizzazz. But it did get me thinking.
It’s been 6 weeks now since Easter Sunday. During this time, we have read of how and why Jesus visited with the disciples after his death and resurrection. We’ve witnessed the disciples’ behavior as they all got the shock of a lifetime by having a meal and conversation with someone they thought was dead and gone. But he wasn’t gone; Christ was alive and had a few important things to do before he returned to his rightful place with God Almighty. And this is where “just as God intended” comes into play. I mean, what if the life and ministry of Jesus Christ amounted to nothing more than a few years of healing and preaching and the picture of a man without sin; a man who was not only from God, but was indeed, God in the flesh? And what if he had suffered on the cross, only to rise again as he had promised and that was the end of it? Would this message of grace and forgiveness and redemption and salvation have captured the hearts of millions around the globe? Would we still look to Christ as being the ultimate gift from God because he was God in the flesh, the ultimate example of a man without sin, the picture of righteousness, holiness that walked amongst us?
Or would he instead fall among the ranks of the prophets? I’ll grant you, Jesus would be known as the greatest prophet of all….but still. You know, the one quality that we have as humans is a very short memory.
No sooner were we calling World War 1 the “war to end all wars,” when World War 2 was about to begin. That being said, I’m inclined to think that the life and ministry of Christ would have vanished into obscurity. But for the testimony of the disciples and later of Paul, this may well be how things ended. But when God sent Christ into the world, he intended to change the world. He intended to shake things up. Jesus started the ball rolling but it was the disciples who picked it up and ran with it, and for that we should be eternally grateful. And what’s more, this is what God intended.
Luke decided to write the historical record that we know of as The Acts of the Apostles. He took on this task to record the lives and ministries of the disciples after the death of Jesus. He took on this task that we might understand how men and women behave when they have seen and touched and heard and felt the presence of the living Lord. It’s a feeling that we may never know – but we can come close. Through the power of the Spirit – we can come close. Wesley used to say, “Give me a man who is on fire for the Lord and people will travel for miles to watch him burn.” The disciples of Jesus Christ were ordinary men; there was nothing special about them in their previous lives. And even after the years spent with Christ they were still capable of doing some pretty dumb things and asking some pretty dumb questions. But they were set apart to do great things. They were set apart to become the hands and the feet of Christ in the world. They were set apart to become the church….just as God intended. And the one thing that Jesus commanded of them before he ascended into heaven was to stick around, telling them (Luke 24:49) Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power. In other words, stick around because soon our God will light you on fire. Next week, we will read from that account when at the celebration of Pentecost, the power of the Spirit came upon these disciples of Christ and from that day on they were no longer just normal guys. No, they were on fire.
We read scripture, we study upon it, and each and every one of us interprets the details differently. We just do. Some of us first heard of the Ascension of Christ in Sunday School as little kids. Others of us came upon the story as adults. For many of us, the ideas of ascending into heaven and tongues of fire and disappearing only to reappear somewhere else …they’re just too much to swallow. To these folks, I say, “Don’t worry about it.” The one thing we need to know and the one thing we can all agree upon is that God in the form of Jesus Christ caused these normal ordinary people to change into dynamos. But here’s the kicker: discipleship didn’t stop there. It’s alive and well in every heart that embraces Jesus Christ as the true Son of God. It’s alive and well in churches and preachers and communities all around the world. That’s how the Spirit moves. It’s not always with white light and balls of fire, but the Spirit is still a force amongst us. That’s how the Spirit moves…as God intended.
Amen & Shalom