You WILL Receive Power

Sermons oughta be about truth. Messages about Jesus the Messiah oughta ring with right. So why would I begin with a lie? Because the world does. It lies to us everyday. It tells us we can't. It tells us we are powerless. It tells us all things, from the events on the news to the lives we live in our shoes, are beyond our control. Here's the truth. No way! T'ain't so. Why? Because the Risen Christ has made us a promise. And we can trust his promises. Jesus promises, "You WILL receive the Holy Spirit!" As a matter of fact the Spirit has come. And with it power, power as of the very Son of God.

It's true. The world has been telling the same false story to those who believe since Jesus' day and before. Even to Jesus himself. Together we can get the sense of this. I'm gonna tell a few Jesus stories. And at the end, I want you to say what the world has always said, "No way, Jesus." (Congregation repeats.)

In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and Jesus said, "Be silent, and come out of him!"
[Luke 4:33-35]. But the people said,
People: No way, Jesus!
When several people brought a paralyzed man on a bed to Jesus, he said, "I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home" [5:24]. But the people said,
People: No way, Jesus!
He commanded his disciples, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." [6:27-28]. But the world said,
People: No way, Jesus!
In the house of a dead girl, Jesus took the little one by the hand and called out, "Child, get up!" [8:54]. But everybody said,
People: No way, Jesus!
Jesus told his disciples, "The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised" [9:22]. You know what they said.
People: No way, Jesus!
And after his resurrection, he promised them, "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 [Acts 1:8]. But the people said,
People: No way, Jesus!
Jesus got used to it. "No way you can do that, Jesus. Absolutely no way." Then he would go ahead and do it anyway. It's a miracle, I guess, that to this very day we don't still call him No Way Jesus. But it turns out Jesus is a YES Way, NEW Way kind of Savior. And on the very day he was taken up into heaven he promised we would be a YES Way, NEW Way people.
Not powerless, but power-FULL.

It is not for the world to deny us power or give it. The truth is, our power is in direct proportion to our trust in God's promises in Jesus. Jesus was full of "no way" miracles. "One way" teachings. "New way" experiences of God's power and presence. This extreme messiah drove out demons, healed the sick. He taught us (by both his word and example) to love our enemies. Christ raised the dead, predicted his own resurrection and promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to all his followers. Then he was lifted up to heaven in the ascension, and a cloud took him totally out of sight. (Acts1:9). We're tempted to say, "No way!" But the testimony of Luke's Book of Acts tells us, "Yes … Way!" The jaw-dropping story of Jesus gives us a new way to experience the power of God in our own life. It says yes to us when all the world says no. Jesus' promise of the Spirit gives us a new opportunity to channel that power into world-changing work.

Powerless. It's the world's watchword these days. No way to stop the violence overseas or in our cities. No chance to stop the pollutions poisoning our planet. Little likelihood WBAL's little girl who was Courtney-from-Brooklyn, New York, will grow up right with a mommy who's in trouble in our own little Brooklyn-of-Baltimore and a daddy just a stone's throw from jail. How many more examples do we need, can we bear? But then, we remember the Spirit brings us power, not the world. One of our 9:30 families foster-cares a baby to health against all odds. The church-sponsored Ulster Project brings Irish Protestant and Catholic families together, 12 at a time for 20 years and if not peace-at-last, at least a workable truce breaks out. Wouldn't the Spirit preserve and empower us to do the same for middle-eastern kids? Five hundred kids will pay to come here next summer to restore homes and renew hope. Why? Because a handful of folks in our company believed in the promise-of-Jesus for the power-of-the-Spirit. Our power is in direct proportion to our trust in God's promises in Jesus. And that's the truth.

Jesus leaves us as a YES Way people. The truth is we will be so, so long as we do not leave Jesus. I am always struck by the scene at the Ascension. I know I'm supposed to be. After-all, Jesus' departure is pretty spectacular. But I am as struck and more by this. At the very instant his own are feeling the most vulnerable, the most utterly helpless and weak, (at his second going, so to speak), Jesus makes his marvelous, unequivocal promise, "YOU WILL receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." Together as Christ's Church, we've had this gift since the first Pentecost, long, long ago. Peace is possible, even in the most improbable and impenetrable places, if we do not walk away from the One who declared peace-between-heaven-and-earth, while nailed to a cruel and unforgiving cross. Salvation is at hand, and in our eternity, if we keep our hand in his. Like the church and its mission to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost, the promise of our YES WAY is global!

It is also profoundly personal. I think of a friend in another congregation, deeply depressed. She had had thoughts of doing herself harm. In a room of this number, there are people here who know the feeling. She had about exhausted all medicines and talk therapies. We had talked and counseled and prayed many times. We did not seem to have the strength to pull her back into life. But then two marvels got her to moving. First, she was befriended by one of the most transparently loving Christians I have ever known. There was a Christ-presence in her life every day. Second, she had a moment. An Ascension experience all her own. With one hand on a bottle of too-many-pills one night, and the other on a crucifix her Catholic-husband-who-had-abandoned-her had left behind, she said the Spirit came to her. She said she felt His outstretched hand in hers. "Hold onto me," he said, "and I will hold onto you." "All this," he said, "is for you." My friend announced, "With that kind of power in one hand, it was finally possible to let go of all the weakness I held in the other." I know many, but not all, the pains, weaknesses and problems present in this room. I know the power to overcome them is not necessarily within us. It doesn't have to be. It comes to us from outside us. It comes from the One who stretches out his hand to take hold of ours. It comes from the Spirit he promises to leave with us! The only way Jesus will leave us is as a YES Way people. So let's not take our leave of Jesus.

The Savior promises us a NEW Way church. The truth is we shall have it, so long as we have the promise and the presence of the Spirit in our midst. The Truth is with the Spirit, we have the power to work for the Kingdom of heaven, right here on earth. Each of us can be a power-full partner of the NEW WAY. There are those of us I would call Down-to-Earthers. Christians like the seven servants of Acts 6. "Full of the Spirit and of wisdom" (6:3). We meet the needs of the needy. We collect canned goods, house the homeless here, mentor single moms, tutor the elementary kids. These are our prayer chain saints and nursing home ministers who bring and sing God's Word. We say yes to folks who usually get a no. Some of us are High Fliers. We're determined to get closer to God through creative, heartfelt, deeply personal worship. We're launched toward the heavens by lively singing, passionate prayer, a message built on relationships with each other and with heaven. We may worship (mostly) on the lower floor, but our spirits love to soar. A new way is our way. Then there are the Street Believers among us. Jesus speaks to us right before his ascension: we're his witnesses "in Jerusalem, all Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Street Believers are not afraid to talk about their faith. We delight to express our belief in the love of God, the power of the Holy Spirit and the saving work of Jesus Christ. We are fully prepared for people to say, "No way," but we don't let it ever get us down. In the New Way Church, what way is your way?

Sermons oughta be about truth. So let's not accept the lie that somehow we are powerless. We have a kept-promise from Jesus. The Spirit will come, and we will receive power. We already have! The power of a Yes Way people in a New Way church. The power to convert this world… to be ready for the next. So do not be faithless but believing. You and I are not weak, but strong in the Lord.

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