Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Moving Forward

August 31:

Potsdam and WS
Call:       Acts 1: 1-6
Read:   Acts 1: 7-11
Text:       Acts 1: 12-26;  2: 1-6
Closing:    Acts 2: 22-24, 36-41

                Moving Forward

This is a day of new beginnings.
This is a day when you and I
and worshippers in four neighboring congregations -
set out on a journey
        through, with, and as a part of the early church

Guided by Luke and, at times by Paul,
    We will see the church as it grows
As it changes
As it figures out how to fulfill the tasks Christ entrusted to it

And as we journey we will see the church adapt:

Adapt   First       to the ascension of Christ
                And to the coming of the Holy Spirit

        Then    to the leadership of the apostles
                And to the influx of new believers

    And finally to geographical and structural expansion
Accompanied by modifications in our understanding of our relationship with God.

During the next twelve weeks

We will see the greatest example of what the church
- and each congregation of it -
is and can be:

The early church will provide us with
    An example of what we   need to do
    And of what we          need to avoid doing.

Our guidebook is what is called "The Gospel of the Church"
    That, of course, is:     "The Acts of the Apostles,"
        The fifth book of the New Testament.

That guidebook will be
    Supplemented by some of the writings of Paul,
One of the leading figures
Whose story     is told in the guidebook.

Our journey began already
with our call to worship and our responsive reading.

In their familiar words
We found the disciples gathered together with Christ
        Receiving their final instructions from him;
        Being commissioned to be his witnesses
In the surrounding area,
And to the ends of the earth;
And Hearing His promise         of the Holy Spirit.

And then, after Jesus had said these things
    As they were watching
    He was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.

"Now what?" his followers had to have asked themselves
"Now    what do we do?"
Look at their situation:

    Jesus had physically left them  - again!
        The first time he came back on the third day
        This time he won't.

    He was their leader and they were his followers.

Now that he was gone, they had to make a choice:

    They could pack up their bags, return to Galilee, and quit.

    They could say,
 "This was a great gig while it lasted, but now it is time to return to our fishing boats (or whatever else they were doing before he called them to follow him)."

    They could say,
        "This was a great adventure, but now it is time to grow up and be responsible adults"

    They could even say,
        "He's deserted us.  We're disappointed.  We expected more from him."

In each case    they would be quitting
In each case    they would be choosing
the easier way over the better way.
In each case    They would be ignoring his commission
            And not trusting his promise.

What an awful thing for us it would have been
had they made that choice.

What a great thing it is for us that they elected the alternative:
That they elected
    to go on
    To tell his story
    To be witnesses of him
    To make disciples for him
    To share and implement his teachings
        Of love, forgiveness, compassion, and charity.

In short, his roughly 120 followers had to choose between
    Giving up
Or  Moving forward.

And they chose      to move forward

That very same choice is before us
    In the 21st century church
        A church trying to serve in a world where many have made the choice to quit
        Because it takes less effort than going on
        Because they don't have to cede control to God.

The choice is before us as individuals,
The choice is before us     as a congregation,
The choice is before us     as a denomination;  and
The choice is before us as the church as a whole.

This series of worship services is to help us make our choice
    By looking at the choice of those in that early church
        How they made their choice
    And How they made their choice work
            Despite obstacles and challenges.

In one way, the choice is more difficult for us than for them.

For making the choice was thrust upon them at Christ's ascension.
      They could not avoid, postpone, or put off making their choice.
On the other hand, you and I can.

You and I can keep doing things as we always have
    And not recognize that standing still
    Means falling back
Even if the falling back is slow enough
that we aren't aware of it until too late.

Those in the early church chose
    to be committed to following and serving Christ
They chose to move forward.

That is the choice that you and I have to make
    If we are truly Christ's followers

And so  we look   at what Luke told us that our predecessors did
    After Christ was lifted up
    After the angels explained that he would come again:

The first things that they did are described
in the verses that follow this morning's call and responsive reading:   [Acts 1: 12-26]

This is the first example that they set for us.

What they did was
    Stay together
And     Remain united in prayer.

They did not split apart
    With each person doing whatever he or she wanted to
They did not separate
    Because they had different likes, dislikes, and opinions
They did not divide
    Because of personality clashes or power struggles.

Today, if you and I were to take an honest look
at the reasons that people leave churches in our time
we would find that most of those reasons are petty and selfish
        Although often couched in words designed to hide
            The pettiness and the selfishness

Most issues that cause friction in churches could be resolved
    If not with agreement, at least with respect
    But that would take effort and commitment
        Like we found in the early church.

And many people today do not think that following Christ
should require either effort or commitment
and certainly not sacrifice.

One of our jobs as followers - should we accept it
    And remember this is "Mission Possible" - not "Impossible"
Is to be honest about effort, commitment, and sacrifice
    And about how they are well worth making.

In addition to being united in prayer
    These early disciples got their organizational ducks in a row.
    They found a replacement for Judas Iscariot
        His name was Matthias
        And he was chosen by lot - after praying
                That God would reveal the choice to them.

Those first disciples had the foundation for moving forward
    They had listened to Christ while he was in human form
    They had witnessed his presence after the resurrection
    They had heard his instructions
    They had seen him taken away by the cloud
    They had united in prayer
    They had revamped their structure.

And then, in order to carry out his instructions
    And to share his story and his teachings
Christ's ten dozen followers needed one more thing:
They needed
Jesus to fulfill his promise by sending the Holy Spirit

That took place on Pentecost
    Fifty days after his resurrection
    Ten days after his ascension

We celebrate that event every year.
But while the story is familiar, we need to continue to hear it:
[Acts 2: 1-6]

That day,   they were empowered to
    Carry out his instructions to them
That day, they were dramatically assured that they were not alone.

They now had no legitimate excuse for not being
    Christ's witnesses in Jerusalem
        Or in all Judea and Samaria
        Or even to the end of the earth.
No excuse at all!

Likewise, They now had no legitimate excuse for not (as Matthew put it)
    Going out to make disciples of all nations
And baptizing them
And teaching them to obey everything Christ had commanded them.
No excuse at all!

Oh, witnessing for Christ
and making disciples for him were risky things to do

We will find this out over the next several weeks of our journey
    But we know it now
    And they knew it then
Because Jesus himself
had been hung on a cross of shame and death.

And yet, those followers made the choice to move forward
rather than quit or give up

And that's the way it was
    At Christ's ascension and on the day of Pentecost

And that's the way it is on August 31, 2014
    For we too have the foundation
    Having read and heard all that the early disciples experienced
And Having had our own experiences with Christ & his witnesses

I pray that we too are united in prayer
    And that rather than quit,
we too make the choice to "Move Forward"
        Even though - or perhaps because
it requires commitment to Christ
to serve and follow him and     to share his teachings of
love, forgiveness, charity, and sacrifice

It worked for those first disciples
    As we will see in the scripture that follows our prayer
And it will work for us.

The decision they made 2,000 years ago was essential for the church.
Ours is essential for the church as well.