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

Day of Change

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

May 17:

Call:       Acts 1: 1-11
Reading:    "Ascension" (323)
Text:       Acts 1: 15-17; 21-26
Closing:    Ephesians 1: 20-23

                Day of Change

Every year at this time.
I tell you how much I like Ascension Sunday

This year is no exception.
    I like Ascension Sunday
    I find it exciting and I find it inspiring.

In a sense, it is the day that Jesus sounds like
    Knute Rockne or Vince Lombardi
        Telling us what it is   that we need to do  to win

But not to win for Notre Dame
And not to win for the Green Bay Packers
    But to win for Christ himself.

For at his ascension,
    Jesus told us that his kingdom was to be spread by us
    As we witness and make disciples
        In Jerusalem,
in all Judea and Samaria,
and     to the ends of the earth.

Or to be more geographically up to date:
In Potsdam
    In all St. Lawrence, Jefferson, and Franklin Counties
    And again to the ends of the earth.

On seven previous Ascension Sundays
    I shared that message in one form or another with you.
On at least two other occasions
    July 1, 2007    - my first day as your pastor
And August 28, 2014 - the first day of our trip through Acts
        I also used the ascension story as my text.

That means that today is the day we achieve double figures.
    I believe that it may be the only scripture that I will have preached on that many times while serving Christ with you.

Therefore,      I hope and I pray   that you remember
    The ascension story
And particularly that you remember how important it is
    Because of the story itself, of course
    But also because of my enthusiasm for it
And most importantly I hope and I pray that you remember it
    By taking it seriously enough that you lead lives
    That fulfill the great commission Christ gave to us that day.
        By being witnesses  And by making disciples.

But today is different from the other nine times
different for you and different for me.

For, today is our last Ascension Sunday together

Because today is a part of our transition to new roles
what we relate to this year is the idea that the ascension
        was a Day of Change     - a day of great change
            Perhaps the greatest change in the last 2000 years.

And so as we look today at the story of Christ's ascension, we
   do see and we do hear what Christ told us that our job was to be,
But we find ourselves focusing not on that job
But on the example of how his followers
Responded and adapted to the change.

They had two problems

First, the big one:
that Christ was no longer physically with them.
And then the smaller, but still significant one:
    That the band of disciples was one person short

So they needed to replace both Christ and Judas.

Obviously no one could really and fully replace Christ
    But what was needed was to replace the human Christ as
The group's leader
and     as an example of how to live by faith.

In some ways this process was actually the easier of the two.
For Christ himself had chosen Peter
He had done so at the breakfast gathering on the shore
        Where he had asked Peter if he loved him
        And then, when Peter responded that he did
        Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep and feed his lambs.

Of course, history is replete with examples
    Of people choosing their successors

The success of those successors depends in part on
    how the people to be led respond to them
        Do they give the new one a chance?
        Do they accept the fact that the new one
will do things differently than the old one
and that that does not make the new wrong?
Or  do they reject him/her without giving him/her a chance?
The success of the successors also depends on
    How the successor responds to having this new authority.

Let's see what happened after Christ ascended.
First the setting               Acts 1: 12-15a
Now Peter steps into the role   1: 15b - 17

Peter accepted the authority
He stood up and took control.

He was a flawed man
He knew he was a flawed man
But he was convinced that with Christ's help
   He could do what Christ had charged him to do
   To lead this band of disciples on the next stage of their  journey
The stage where they were to be apostles
and builders and leaders of the church.

We know that the rest followed him
    There may have been some skepticism
    There may have been some questioning
But they followed him
    Knowing that Christ had called him to this service.

But at least Peter had been one of the 12 before he took on this new role.

Replacing Judas, with another might change the group dynamics

But they knew they had to replace him
how they did it begins with Peter speaking to the followers [Acts 1: 21-26]

Two were nominated: Joseph called Barsabbas a/k/a Justus
And Matthias.
The nominations - whether by Peter or the group -
were the humankind part of the selection process.

I assume that these two were nominated because others
had observed    their gifts and their faith.

But the decision between the two was not left up to humans
    It wasn't going to be a popularity contest
    It wasn't going to be a competition
    There weren't going to be campaign speeches and slogans
    Nobody was going to buy votes, TV ads, or banners.

Jesus - although not physically with them -
    Was going to make the choice

And so they prayed that God would truly show them
    Which one God had chosen

They cast lots and the choice was Matthias.

Although tradition holds that he was ultimately martyred,
Scripture does not tell us anything else about Matthias.
        We don't know his background
        We don't know how he fit in with the other eleven

But we can assume from the fact that the early church kept on growing,
    That he was indeed God's choice and that he performed well.

You and I have read about these changes so many times
    That they seem old hat to us.

To grasp and feel the emotions of our scripture,
you and I need to try to imagine
being one of the ten dozen followers experiencing the change
When Jesus was crucified
Those followers were frightened and angry,
frightened by   and angry at
the Jewish leaders and the Roman officials
frightened by and   angry at God for not saving him

    But then Jesus rose on Easter
        Their fear and their anger dissipated
        And were transformed into joy and excitement.

    Now, forty days later   he was gone again!
        And they could no longer so easily blame
            Those Jewish leaders and those Roman officials.

They could - and some probably did - blame God
They could - and some probably did -
grumble, wail, and wallow in self pity

But instead they adapted.
They adapted by getting things in order
to successfully do  what they had been charged to do.

Because, however unwelcome this Day of Change was,,
The leaders of the early church accepted it
    As a day of new beginnings
    A time to remember (yes!) but also a time to move on

As such, they made sure that we recognize that on Ascension Day
    We were not only told what we are to do,
    We were also given an example of how to do it.

At this point in our lives together,    we are thankful for that.