May 1st, 2016:"Enthusiastic Listening"

Text: Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67;                                      6th Sunday of Easter                            Sandy Nuernberg

Revelations 21:10, 22-25:5; John 14:23-29             Older Adult Week Begins                     Pastor

Title: “Enthusiastic Listening”                                 May Day, Communion Sunday

First Presbyterian Church                                           Sunday, May 1st, 2016                           Pardeeville, WI

 

Please pray with me, Living God, you sent your apostle, Paul, to preach and teach the gospel to households, the first believers including Lydia, as they gathered for peace at the waters edge. They shared in prayer, being led by the Holy Spirit in hearing your words of truth. You opened their hearts in love, and Lydia’s home in hospitality for the gospel being shared. By the power of your Spirit open wide the doors of our hearts today, that we might open our lives to share your truth in service to your world.  AMEN.

 

Jesus answered, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my

Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our

home with them.”                               John 14:23

 

            These are the words of the ‘firm foundation of the church.’ They are the Father’s words! Jesus’ love, power, persistence, and peace are apparent in his personal farewell words, as they permeate into the ears of the disciples. He gives them comfort as well:

 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you

as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let

                                                              them be afraid.”                               John 14:27

 

            Jesus’ Farewell Discourse was lengthy and deliberate in his words (Ch. 13-17) to his disciples. He was determined they got his message; therefore, they will believe!

He will be leaving, but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit will sent to them, and teach them everything; all they need do is be enthusiastic listeners!

 

            My question for us to ponder today is why are we fearful of what is to come? It sure might seem that after Easter when we hear these words from Jesus, we are in the comfort, care, and calmness of our Lord. We are post-Easter Christians, you and I, and the promise of peace, truth, love, and joy has come to us. Like Paul, have we experienced dreams, visions, ideas that help us realize the ‘light of the Lord’ has shown on us lately?

 

            Here are a few questions to ask ourselves as we relate the themes of love, challenge, and hope in our texts today: Do we have a quiet place of prayer or have we found one? (mine: Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton, WI) Has anyone enthusiastically listened to us as we’ve talked about the Lord our God in our lives? ( mine: Clare, my spiritual director, monthly, and Cindy, my sister; weekly!) Have we eagerly listened to other’s stories? (mine: my neighborhood friend, Sally) Have we shared our hospitality with someone in some way? ( mine: mahjong friends, weekly) Have we felt God’s love so much that we have loved another, told them, and kept Jesus’ word in doing it? (mine: Fr. M. Burke)

 

            I was thinking all week long about any times recently when someone had asked me for help and I didn’t excuse myself but went to help immediately. I thought of two instances and each in very different ways; one was mid-week when my sister called and wanted a ride home from the hospital. Her and her husband, Bob, had gone there the day before after calling 911—he had some heart ‘discomfort’ and was taken by ambulance to SMHMC in Madison, from where they live in Oregon. Of course I went and everything was all right in the end. I called the next day to check in with them, and he told me, “I guess there’s nothing like a night’s sleep in your own bed, a hot cup of coffee, and a morning newspaper to make you feel better!”

 

            The other time was perhaps common for many of us. I was at a stop-light near home and a homeless man was standing with a cardboard-sign as we waited for the lights to change. Recognizing that we all want to be seen, I did look his way, but also did a ‘double-take’ and looked the other way. Of course I felt the rush of shame coming over me; not responding in any way but hoping the lights would change and I could rush off to my destination. I learned from a friend the next day that I must stock my car with bags of Gatorade and granola bars; she told me the guilt feelings aren’t so intense if you give them (in a small paper bag; keep them in the car!) to these friends/strangers.

 

            After reflecting on God’s Word, as we are in the 6th Sunday of Easter, we still contemplate where the Spirit of God is leading us next, or what happens to us after Jesus’ resurrection and being risen. Upon stumbling into Luke’s writing in Acts where Paul ventures westward in his teachings for new Christians, we realize something important: one of the most potent pieces of Luke’s story (in Acts of the Apostles) of the early church is the common thread of spreading the Good News to all parts of the world. From Jerusalem, in this first century (C.E.), Paul was on a second mission journey, ‘convinced to proclaim the good news’ (Acts 16:10).

 

For better or worse, Paul, like Peter, was becoming well-known; the Jerusalem Council had met and mission to the Gentiles was approved. The history and socio/economic plan are quite apparent in Paul’s journeys. Traveling to households, meeting with persons like Lydia, a prominent business woman, being with believers was his style of ministry. He landed in Macedonia, for what became the eventual founding of the Church of Europe. Yet, Paul had to be very careful where he spoke and to whom. He was an enthusiastic listener as to where people were in their life and faith, along with listening to the Spirit in his actions.

 

Jesus said to them, “And now I have told you this before it occurs,

                                     so that when it does occur, you may believe.”            John 14:29

 

The world in which we live yearns for a peacefulness of no more wars, terrorism, bullying and arguing or bickering among us. We do not desire conflict in the faithful Christian community and church where we belong and are active; yes, there are far more things where we are alike than where we differ. In our anxiety, fears, our frustrations, we can listen to that still small voice, have faith and believe that nudge from afar telling us not to worry about the ‘big things.’ God will provide is what we envision as Christians.

 

As post-Easter people I do think we have visions, experience dreams that come true, and shed light on what might come to us as persons, as God makes a ‘home with us’ in the church. Yes, we faithfully strive to love our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies, and God’s Spirit is within us. We sing, pray, and bless a Lord who loves us unconditionally; it’s what we believe! We must share our visions, tell our stories in detail to one another, and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to help others we love do the same.    

                                               

            As we come to the Lord’s table today for Communion together, let us feel that Holy Spirit, our advocate and Friend, leading us, teaching us what we need to know, and giving us peace of mind in letting our requests be made known to and accomplished by our God.

 

 

                                                                        Thanks be to God.                   AMEN.

           

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