May 20, 2012: Set Free, now FLY!

Posted on : May 17th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

This is it!  This is the last Sunday in the season of Easter, and we’re still rising!  Our Easter theme this year has been “When the Impossible is Possible.”  Sometimes we “modern day” and post-modern intellectuals get caught up in questions of disbelief like, “How was Jesus raised from the dead?” or “Did it really happen?”

Well, if you still have any doubt about how God can raise us from death to life, you weren’t here last Sunday!  We have been raised up!  We have been set free.  Now it’s time to fly!

A few weeks ago I came across this quote from a book called “Experiencing God:”

When your life is in the middle of God’s activity, God will start rearranging a lot of your thinking. God’s ways and thoughts are so different from yours and mine they will often sound wrong, crazy, or impossible. Often, you will realize that the task is far beyond your power or resources to accomplish. When you recognize that the task is humanly impossible, you need to be ready to believe God and trust God completely.

from Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby and Claude King

This Sunday, the last Sunday in the season of Easter, our scripture is from the mystical tradition of Christianity.  It’s a story in which the risen Jesus blesses his friends and followers with uplifted hands (the sign of passing on God’s blessing) and while blessing them, the Risen Christ is parted from them and “carried into heaven.”  To me, this story is symbolic of our empowerment ministry.  Immediately after the death of Jesus, his friends and followers needed a lot of reassurance that they were not only going to be “ok” but be able to carry on the ministry that Jesus began.  The “Ascension story” is the last piece of the resurrection story that they needed to experience.  They had been raised up, set free, and now it was time for them to “fly on their own.”

One of the great things about the resurrection story is that God doesn’t leave us alone (literally) until we “get it.”  God keeps pestering us, annoying us, coming to us, poking, prodding, encouraging, leading and always, lifting us up, until we’re ready to be set free to fly on our own.

This Sunday we’re going to watch a video of a person’s life story, which I guarantee you’ll walk away saying, “if this guy can be raised up and set free to soar to new heights, so can I!”  It’s also a wonderful image of what our new identity in Christ means for us as we grow into our new life as West Hollywood United Church of Christ.

Last Sunday we had a 19 year old guy come in off the street and join us for worship.  After worship he asked to talk with me.  He came down to Southern California to help out a family member who ended up in the hospital and he ended up on the street trying to find a way back home to Northern CA.  He said to me, “My life is totally messed up. I’m living on the street and I’m scared to death.  No one has been able to help me.  I just happened to be walking by this Church and saw your banners out front, so I came in.  I have to tell you, I’ve never been in a church where they sing Lady Gaga and Beyoncé!  Awesome!” “But even more,” he said, “I have never experienced a church where everyone is so positive and loving.  I just felt surrounded by the love of God all morning, and right now I need that so badly.”

We got him to a safe shelter for the night and hopefully he is back home in Northern California.  He said to me, “I hope to come back here again when I’ve got it more together.”  I hope he does too.  I could see his life was transformed.  He was raised up and empowered by Christ’s love at a moment of desperation in his life.  That’s what the Ascension and Resurrection is all about.

Blessings, even as we are being raised up!


~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Luke 24: 46-53

Jesus blesses the disciples and is parted from them.

And Jesus said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in Christ’s name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And I am sending the promise of my God upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and with uplifted hands blessed them.  While blessing them, Jesus parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.  And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.

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