Sunday, April 30, 2017

Not the Same Anymore: Rethinking What Happened

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. (Acts 2:14a, 36-41 NRSV)

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and from our resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

I think most of you know that I’ve lived in a few different places. When I was 19 years old I moved from rural, West River South Dakota to the Los Angeles-Orange County metropolitan area. In looking back as an older and more mature adult (cough! cough!) I realize what a huge cultural shift that was for me at the time. 

But I didn’t really recognize it then. I was so focused on figuring out what life looked like from day-to-day, that I didn’t really have the perspective I do now.

I lived in that area for just over 30 years. I was surrounded there by my entire immediate family--my mother, my brother, and my sister--and by a number of extended family. Over time, through either move or death, by 2008, which was the year my sister died, I was the only remaining member of my immediate family in Southern California.

It was after her death, that I began to feel a pull to move to Texas, to be reunited and to live in closer proximity to my brother and sister-in-law and their family, who had moved to Austin, Texas, some 15 years earlier.

It was quite a coincidence then, a year and a half later, that the organization I worked for announced that they were looking for someone to move to Texas to head up a new organization there. And, so, in the summer of 2010, I moved to Austin, Texas. In the three years I lived there, I was able to renew what had been a very close relationship. And, I was also able to regain another sister in my relationship with my sister-in-law, a relationship that so helped to fill the deep void left in my life left by my own sister’s death.

While I was going through all of this--the move, the re-establishing of relationships--I wasn’t really aware of why I was doing this. It was only in hindsight, that, as with my original move to California, I gained the full perspective of what was happening in my life and why. 

Has that ever happened to you? I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Hindsight is 20/20.” Right? Sometimes when we’re in the midst of things that happen in our lives--both good and bad--we don’t fully understand everything that was happening until we are able, often with the help of friends and family, to gain a full perspective of what was happening and why. To rethink what happened.

Rethinking what happened. That is what is happening in both our Acts and our Luke lessons today. In both stories, someone is helping others rethink what happened. 

In the Luke story, the story of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, some seven miles from Jerusalem. In that story, it is Jesus who helps them connect the dots. Who points out everything in the Hebrew scripture that refers to him. Who helps them understand. Who helps them rethink what happened. 

And, then, in the Acts lesson, which is the second half of Peter’s sermon on Pentecost. (We heard the first half last week.) It is in this sermon that Peter is the one, filled with the Holy Spirit, who connects the dots for the people of God gathered there. Those people of God, part of the Jewish diaspora, who have so acclimated to their new homelands that they have forgotten their mother tongue. Who are only able to understand because the Spirit has had to engage in a linguistic miracle that allows the disciples to preach to them in the language of their newly-adopted countries. It is the Spirit-filled Peter who helps them understand. It is Peter who helps them rethink what happened.

This is what Peter means when, after he repeatedly appeals to them to see what has happened and why it has happened, he says to them, “Repent.” Here, repentance isn’t simply about a changed behavior or a confession. At its root, it refers to a changed mind. It means embracing a new way of understanding something. Peter is telling those gathered to recognize that God is at work in Jesus Christ. And, therefore, to recognize the authority of Jesus to announce and to put in place God’s salvation. “Rethink what happened,” Peter is saying to them, “And then, imagine new possibilities in what God continues to do.”

This is nearly the same thing that Peter is saying to them when he urges them to be saved “from this corrupt generation.” In the Gospel of Luke, written by the same person who wrote Acts, Jesus speaks of a similar generation and emphasizes its condition, which is an inability to perceive God’s activity.  It is a condition that exists with us today--the inability and the unwillingness to move from our ignorance about what God has done to embracing God’s faithfulness, which is shown in Jesus Christ and is further evidenced in the arrival of the Holy Spirit. 

That is repentance. That is rethinking what happened. That is seeing, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s salvation coming into our world.  It is God, in God’s faithfulness, breaking into our world and disrupting “business as usual.” So that nothing is the same anymore. 

It’s hindsight, really. The same hindsight that my friends and family helped me with--to see God’s hand at work in my own life.  It’s hindsight that comes through the Holy Spirit, who works through those who surround us. And who leads us to see God breaking into our lives and our world, disrupting the dark things. Who leads us to repentance--to changing our minds and coming to a new way of understanding--an understanding of God at work through Jesus Christ. 

And, finally, It’s the Holy Spirit who once again affirms for us God’s faithfulness. That our God is a God we can trust. That God’s disruptive activity is good. And that God’s promises are available for us. That not only were they available then for the assembled people of God. But they are here for us, too. Now.

Notice Peter’s statement near the end of this passage:  “The promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls.” The promise belongs to Peter’s Jewish audience. It belongs to his audience’s offspring. It belongs to those not yet born. It belongs to us. Here and now. 

It is the promise we heard on Easter Sunday. It is the promise Jesus helps the Emmaus disciples understand.  It is the promise we receive when we repent, when we rethink what happened. It is the promise of God’s salvation. For those who heard Peter that day. For us today. And for all whom God calls.

The promise of God’s salvation. What does that salvation look like? Well, that’s for us to explore next week.

For today, though, we give thanks. We give thanks that God is a disruptive and intrusive God. That when God breaks in, nothing is the same anymore. That through the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to rethink what happened and to see our faithful God at work in our lives and in the world.

Thanks be to God! 


Preached April 30, 2017, at Grace and Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY.
Third Sunday of Easter
Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

With gratitude to Matthew Skinner's Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel: Encountering the Divine in the Book of Acts.

No comments:

Post a Comment