Empowered For Jesus’ Mission
During our summer worship series we have been following the stories of the early church in the book of Acts. We have discovered many truths about how the Holy Spirit empowers us to continue the mission of Jesus. These experiences/truths are often deeply personal. This reflects God’s personality as God is deeply committed to relationships and to intimate and vulnerable experiences that allows us to know who God really is.
This is God’s pattern of ever-increasing self-revelation. God reveals Godself to Abraham as the One Creator God, who sees and knows and cares about God’s world & God’s people. Then God reveals more of Godself to Moses in the revelation of the Law – a revelation of God’s character, God’s Holiness. Then God reveals Godself to the prophets, a God who weeps over the brokenness and injustice in the world, a God who stands with the oppressed and the poor. Then God reveals Godself in the Word made Flesh – Jesus, God with skin on. And Jesus reveals God in everything he says and does, in who he eats with and who he heals and in the powerful way he talks about God. And, of course, ultimately, Jesus reveals a God of grace, of love and forgiveness so wide God would die to show us God’s heart for the broken world. And he reveals a power mighty enough to conquer death. What could possibly follow that act?! This – God poured out into the hearts of every person. God spoken not just once but in every language. God giving a piece of Godself to every man and woman, son and daughter, young and old, even slave and free. God poured out into us.
The story of acts emphasizes that God is personal. God is deeply, deeply personal. God speaks the language of your heart, of every heart. God crosses the barriers and comes to us. Our faith is deeply personal. We each have our own story, our own encounter with God, in our own experience and our own language.
But in the West, especially in America, we have sometimes taken another step – a step that’s antithetical to the Gospel story – and equated our personal God and personal faith with privatization and individualism. God is personal – but God is not private. Our faith is personal, but our faith was never meant to be private or individual. If you keep reading the story in Acts that’s one of the most immediate things that stands out – how suddenly, radically, communal and public the disciple’s faith becomes. Every day they’re gathering together, hearing the stories of God’s work, especially the stories of Jesus. And when they gather together, they eat together, and they gather their money and give to the poor. Communal, personal and public. They take their preaching out on the streets. They begin to do the things that Jesus did, healing people and proclaiming the Good News. Personal and public. As they encounter the power of the Holy Spirit, their deeply personal faith is pushed more and more into public spaces for everyone to encounter and see.
The story of the early church reminds us that the Good News is meant for us – and for our neighbor. That the Gospel comes to us in our heart language – and transforms us, and empowers us, to take it to our neighbor in her heart language.