Big Words: Go
Acts 2:1-21 // John 15:26-27, 16:4-15
First in a series of six
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for today is Acts 2, to which I add from Acts chapter 1: “He ordered them not to depart Jerusalem but to wait… and later, “you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
We are exploring a new sermon series in these days, called Big Words. The words that have the greatest depth of meaning in English are always the simplest. In this sermon series, we examine those little words, and we ask, what do these little words mean and how do they help us to express the depth of our theology? Be, with, but, and for. These little words harbor incredible theological truths, and today we ask the question, on Pentecost Sunday, on the Sunday when the disciples were given the Holy Spirit, were sent, were told to go, what does that word “go” mean? What does it mean to go?
It’s a command. Go. Get away. Go. Get moving!
It’s a way to encourage. Go. Go for it!
It’s a way to end conversations. Go. As Pastor Griffin has got me saying at the end of conversations, “Well, there you go.”
It’s a way to describe life. Go. He’s going on his own path. He’s gone to his Lord. He’s heading toward greatness.
So, as we look at our text today, where did Jesus tell his disciples to go?
To answer that, we have to back up to the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts.
The days after Jesus’ death, the disciples were huddled together, with the door locked. Jesus appears among them in the locked room and says, Peace be with you. Then, he appears among them again, with Thomas, the doors still locked and says again, Peace be with you. Then he appears to the disciples going to Emmaus, then he appears to 500 or more witnesses of the resurrection, and then, forty days after his resurrection, he ascends into heaven.
In Acts 1, what does he direct them to do? They’re on a mountain outside of Jerusalem, hearing the last instructions of their Savior before he ascends into the heavens.
He tells them to go. Go back to Jerusalem. He tells them to go, go wait for the Spirit to come. You wonder how different their room would have looked after that. You wonder what different kind of air they would have felt, not one of fear or one of failure, or one of defeat, but instead one of triumph, of anticipation, of excitement and impatience to receive what their Savior was handing out to them
Our text begins with the disciples not knowing what to expect, but knowing that they will see it when they see it. They wait, not knowing what will come or when it will come, or what it will be – have you ever imagined the perspective of the disciples? – but when it comes it is all that God had ordained it to be. They are where they have been for the last 2 months, but the calling of their God to go and wait – to receive the Holy Spirit – changes everything they thought they knew about their surroundings.
There’s another answer to the question, where were they told to go?
As Jesus ascended, there was another side to his command to his disciples. First, he said, “Go and wait in Jerusalem.” Second, he said, “Go and be my witnesses to every nation.”
This is the definition of “go” that we’re more comfortable with, at least on some levels. He invites them to follow him and go out to all the corners of the earth, and he starts in Jerusalem.
God is bidding them to go, and at the same time he is drawing all the nations to them. He is preparing them by his Holy Spirit and he is preparing hearts to hear his message. He is calling the equipped and he is equipping the called.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be Peter, on that first Pentecost? His entire life so far has been forming him, with success and failure, coming from the most painful of betrayals, his entire life has been forming him for this sermon. But it isn’t the end. There is far more for him to do. There is a far greater calling, and throughout the book of Acts, you see Peter in the end, in a different place than he was in the beginning, both physically and spiritually.
So, what does this mean for us?
The calling of God, the way God calls us to go, I would submit to you, is twofold. Sometimes, to go might mean to stay. Let me tell you what I mean. TO go – that is to be sent on a mission – means that your mission is to those who are around you right now, even as God has a plan that moves you forward in the end.
Let’s take an example. If a woman was working in a strip club, or in the mafia, or perhaps (the most black-and-white of situations) in Nazi Germany, and became a believer or started taking their faith seriously, what would the calling of God be in her life?
Calling number one would be to be Christian to all those who are around you, to be a Christian to them because where you are is where God has called you to be in this moment. Let me say that again. Wherever you are, there is a calling that you have from God for that very place and time. How do I know? Because you are there. The first calling of a Christian is to be Christian to all those who are around you.
To be kind. To be loving – and remember be loving is to sacrifice for what another needs, not what they want, nor what they deserve. To have self-control and patience. To have joy and goodness, because the calling of God is to those who are around you.
Second, the calling of a Christian is to know that where you are isn’t where you will be. Look at Peter -- where he was in the Gospels was not where he was on Pentecost and that certainly was not where he ended up at the end of his life. That is to say, your God as the true vine is wanting you to grow fruit. Your God as the good Shepherd is wanting to lead you toward waters that are more still, to pastures that are even greener. That, as Pastor Griffin said a few weeks ago, your God is not satisfied with your status quo.
Because the journey of the Christian life orients us toward something entirely other. Most times we think of life beginning at birth and ending at death, but for the Christian, we are called to know we are on a different path. For the Christian, we orient ourselves not to the day of our birth but to the day when we are born anew in the waters of baptism. We see our end no so much as our last breath on our last day, but instead we see our end as the day when Christ comes to give eternal life me and all believers in Christ, serving him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
Amen and amen.
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