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

Manifest Destiny

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

October 12:

Call:       Acts 8: 1-3
Reading:    From Acts 10: 34-36, 42-43
Text:       Acts 8: 4-8, 14-17, 26-39;  10: 1-21, 44-48
Closing:    Acts 11: 1-4, 16-17

                Manifest Destiny

NO! For those of you who have been wondering
    ever since I changed the church sign last Sunday

I do not intend to spend the next several minutes talking about
    A mid 19th century North American expansion movement
I do not intend to talk about
    Texas and California becoming states of the union
I do not intend to talk about
    Zachary Taylor, Winfield Scott and the War with Mexico

And I certainly will not interfere with our looking at the early church
        By addressing the details of the Gadsden Purchase

But I will pause for a moment to address the concept that connects
all those things that I have promised to not talk about.

That concept is the title of this message: Manifest Destiny
    Which we encountered while still in elementary school.

It was the religious-like belief that it was
the right and the duty
    Of the United States
to spread across this continent.

In the 1840s our coming of age nation
    Got caught up in the idea that
not only we could, but we should
expand from ocean to ocean.
And from Mexico to Canada

We believed that this was our God given/ordained destiny

And while the term "manifest destiny" was coined in the 1840s,
    The term applies even better to
        The spread of Christianity after the stoning of Stephen

The manifested sense of a destiny about which we talk today
    Goes back to Christ's ascension
    Not to James K. Polk's campaign for the presidency.

The inspiring theme in Polk"s successful 1844 campaign was
    "Fifty Four Forty or Fight"

But the theme of our manifest destiny
    is Christ's Great Commission from the first chapter of Acts
        "You will be my witnesses
in Jerusalem
in all Judea and Samaria
and to the ends of the earth.

Whereas Polk's goal was to spread
American control and way of life
across North America

Christ's goal was to have his love and story
    Spread across the entire world

Whereas Polk's goal was selfish and self indulgent
Christ's goal was unselfish and sacrificial
[Although there have been times when the church
turned it into something selfish and self indulgent.]

The first six weeks of our journey through Acts
    Were spent in Jerusalem,
the first geographical level of Christ's commission

During those weeks, we spent virtually no time
In the 2nd level:  the rest of Judea and all of Samaria
    Or the third:   the ends of the earth.

But something happened!

And that something was Stephen's being dragged from the city
    And stoned to death.

Coming on the heels of
   the arrests, whippings and admonishments of and to, the apostles
this set the wheels in motion.

The Jewish leadership
- and remember Christians still saw themselves as Jews -
had had enough
of this talk about Jesus as the messiah
and of the accusation that they had killed the one sent by God

Stephen was the final straw
      And the leadership was determined to end this once and for all.

Apparently forgetting Gamaliel's counsel that if this movement was of God, then there was nothing they could do about it,

They launched a vicious harassment of the church
    Dragging both men and woman from their homes
    And throwing them into prison.
The followers scattered.
And their scattering took them to the second geographical level
the regions of Judea (outside Jerusalem) and Samaria.

Like westward moving mid- nineteenth century Americans
    Who took with them and shared
        The concepts of freedom and democracy
The scattered followers of Christ
    Took with them and shared the story of Christ
        And his teachings of love, mercy, and salvation

Thus, instead of putting an end to the story of Christ
    The stoning of Stephen
spread the story
moved the church toward its destiny
    And     helped fulfill the Great Commission

At this second geographical level
    The two most important figures were
Philip and Peter.

Philip, like Stephen, was one of the seven deacons,
And appears to have stepped into Stephen's role

Peter was Christ's appointed leader of the apostles.

The story of Philip's mission in Samaria begins at [Acts 8: 4-8].

Sounds a lot like the stories we have heard before
    About Jesus himself
    About the apostles after Pentecost
    About Stephen.

That sameness is intentional.
It shows how "beat went on" despite Stephen's death
Later, Philip was sent out to a desert road to meet a man
    [Acts 8: 26-39]

Not only is this a post Stephen conversion story;
Not only is this a move to the commission's second level;
But it also is a fulfillment of a prophecy of Isaiah
    Where God, in speaking of salvation
        Announced he would gather in Israel's outcasts
        Specifically including "foreigners and eunuchs."
 [Isaiah 56: 1-8]

This man was both a foreigner and a eunuch.
    And so this event demonstrated unity with the past
    While also producing the diversity of the future

[And, isn't that always a balancing act within the church?]

As noted, the other person we encounter at this second level
    Is Peter.

Peter's visual and auditory experience on the roof in Joppa
    Where he heard the voice say,
        "Never consider unclean what God has made pure."
And his vision-inspired encounter with the Roman centurion, Cornelius
    Were essential in opening the minds of the church leadership
to the fact that the church was to include the gentiles.

[I urge you to read the details of these experiences in chapter 10 of Acts.]

The destiny manifest in Christ's
    Life and death,
    His resurrection and ascension
Is that his story is to be told throughout the world.
It is to be told locally, regionally, and worldwide
It is to be told to everyone
    Unnamed ordinary people
        Like we have seen in Jerusalem and Samaria
    Government officials
        Like the Roman centurion
    Outcasts and people who are different
        Like the Ethiopian eunuch
It is to be told by everyone
    Like Philip, the Greek speaking deacon
    Like Peter, the Aramaic speaking apostle
    And like those of us in this sanctuary this morning

But perhaps the most important lesson of the stoning of Stephen and the events that followed is that of the destiny manifest in them:
    That Christ's story is to be told
    That Christ's story can be told
    That Christ's story will be told
Despite attempts to prevent it from being told

The only thing that can interfere with destiny
    Is the failure of supposed followers to tell the story.

And thus the conclusion is unavoidable:
    If you and I are really followers of Christ
    Then we must be a part of telling it.

We have known that,
Probably for years and years
But certainly at least since our journey through Acts began
with a look at the ascension - six weeks ago today.

And now we know it is our destiny.