Sunday, January 15, 2017
Acts 1: 1 – 8
Preached by Rev. Dr. Harold E. Kidd
“Therefore when they had come together they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will you
at this time restore the kingdom of Israel.”
As the church and people from many faiths celebrate around the world the birthday, and legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I want to preach from a Pentecost text, Amen. A text that we tend to overlook because it is a precursor to the Lord’s major announcement to His gathered disciples that they are to receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. And while they look steadfastly toward heaven Jesus ascends. Two angels appear, who give the heavenly testimony, “And this same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Following the resurrection of Jesus, at the command of their risen Savior, the disciples have been instructed not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. It is now 40 days since His resurrection, the day of His ascension, and 10 days prior to the day of Pentecost. Luke informs us in his introduction to Theophilus to whom Acts is written, “He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”
So they asked Him as he was sharing with them things pertaining to the kingdom of God, “Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” Having this up close and personal conversation with Jesus. Lord, “we don’t know how you did it but, You have conquered death, You have risen triumphantly from the grave, the devil could not defeat you, the grave couldn’t hold you, and death couldn’t destroy you.
“Lord, we doubted you, we ran and hide ourselves after your crucifixion, but You have proven that You are the Lord of lords, the King of kings, the conqueror of hell, death and the grave. Lord, its now payback time. Time, for you to show up and show out and let our Roman oppressors know without a shadow of a doubt that Israel is now ready, on the rise again, because you are taking back what belongs to us.”
So with high expectations, renewed hope and belief that ask Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” Twice in her history once under David and again under the Maccabees, Israel was the Sovereign kingdom. The first episode of Israel’s sovereignty was ended by the Babylonians, the second, by Rome. So their question has to do with Jesus making Israel great again.
Behind the disciples question is a longing in their hearts to be part of the sovereign political power structure that once was, which they now hoped Jesus would established. Sounds just like us, doesn’t it? Make America great again. For when one enters some arena of public, political, civic and religious life that brings high expectations, renewed hope and resurrected beliefs, there is that hope in us to believe, that maybe just maybe now is our time, the season we have sacrificed for, dedicated our lives and resources to, our season has arrived. Finally our man or woman is in the place of leadership where they can do us the most good.
“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom?” Millions of people around the globe of differing races, nationalities and languages, and for a variety of good reasons thought it was our time, when Barack Obama was elected as a two term President of these United States. Our economy was in ship wreck, the big three were on the verge of bankruptcy, there was a wall street as well as a main street meltdown, foreign relations with other nations were strained, and domestically there was a great need of those dependent on services and programs sustained by Federal Dollars. And so President Obama entered the Oval Office with this Audacity to Hope, and millions around the world were galvanized through his vision and his leadership.
And once again find ourselves today in the same place as did these waiting disciples with expectations, hopes and needs, “Lord Jesus, You have risen as the Resurrected Savior, You have announced all authority has been given unto You in heaven and on earth, and that all power is now in Your hands.” “So Lord, Is it time yet?”
When will you restore America? Is it time yet? When will you restore prayer in the schools? Is it time yet? When will you restore peace on the earth so that we will learn that we are our brother and sisters keepers and truly commit ourselves to study war no more? Lord, is it time yet? When will you shower America with a fresh anointing of Faith, Hope and Love, because hate cannot drive out hate, only Your love can do that. Is it time yet?
When will you Lord, break down the walls of hate, and bigotry in human hearts that desire to build virtual walls, and brick walls, psychological walls of hate, that keep others out. Is it time yet? Can we be done with unfair juries? Can we be done with a mentality that its better to spend billions of dollars on incarceration rather than education? Can we be done with cops shooting unarmed black men and ethnic Latino men? Can we be done with us killing us? Can we be done with children who are educationally marginalized so that they cannot reach the highest level of their intellectual potential?
Is it time yet Jesus? For You to rule, for You to reign, for You to put a stop to all this madness. When will you restore civility to a broken political system, and a true spirit of bi-partisanship that works across the isles in Congress for the best interests of the citizens of this nation? Is it time yet? When will you Lord, restore Your church to live out the full mission mandate of your Great Commission which is to go into all the world with this Gospel.
They ask: “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom?” Jesus’ responds: ”It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” Don’t worry about when it’s going to happen, just work to make it happen. Don’t worry about how it’s going to happen, just work to ensure that it does happen. Don’t speculate on “Are We There Yet?” or “When Is Our Ship Coming In?” But just be faithful in season and out of season in doing the work of the Lord. His answer is dissatisfying because he does not give them a timetable. God has chosen to reveal the content of the kingdom while at the same time concealing the chronology of the kingdom. In other words, they are still under Roman rule and oppression, they are still suffering as God’s people in this 1st century society, they are still living in a dysfunctional political and economic environment.
And yet God who has all authority and sovereignty has a set time for the kingdom to be fully realized, which according to Jesus is yet to be realized. In other words, we can’t hurry God not matter how much we seem to be suffering, or how bad the injustices and oppressions. Which is not the answer His disciples nor we want to hear. His response to their question is dissatisfying. “Its not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” Because our sufferings or social conditions nor world climate doesn’t make God rush.
Too many give up, before they get started, Too many want to throw in the towel on people and visions the Lord has bequeathed to us for our care and nurture, because we are in a hurry to see results. Jesus’ only positive response to their question is “And you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” Ah, a collective calling, a collective anointing, a collective responsibility in working so that “His kingdom comes here on earth as it is in heaven.”
Dr. King understood this principle because one of the standards of the Civil Rights movement was “We Shall Overcome.” Not that we have already overcome. But We Shall Overcome. A song, whose lyrics speak truth, to our Yesterdays, our Todays, and our Tomorrows. We have not yet arrived, but we are part of an historical movement in God’s rich narrative of Salvation History.
Even while Jesus ascended up into the heavens, someone came behind Him, who is just as much God as He is. Who has just as much power as He does. Who works with the authority given Him as the third person of the Trinity. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” When we might still be conditioned to look for hope in one single individual, the hope now has been invested through the Spirit in each and every one of us! We are now God’s leadership through committee, the Holy Spirit working through us collectively! The power that brings transformation in this society and world, has been invested, implanted, rests rules and abides in us collectively. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” Power, which comes from the Greek “dynamos” from which we get the word dynamite.
The dynamite we possess is not a stick in the hand or a pipe bomb, but the power of God within us that desires to work through us. “I am equipping you to be effective in ministry, in spite of your frustrations in realizing what a slow process it is to build the church, or to actually see” “justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
“Lord, is it time yet? God says, “I’ve got the date, you do the duty.” God says, “I’ve got the resources, you just be the vessel.” God says, “I’ve got the plan, you just put it into action.” God says, “I’ll fight your battles, you just remain faithful.”