May 28, 2006

6th Sunday of Easter

"The Adventure Begins"

(Ephesians 1:15-23, Acts 1:1-11)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn


INTRODUCTION:

A third-grade Sunday school teacher was giving a lesson on the commandment, "Honor thy father and mother." "Now, does anyone know a commandment for brothers and sisters?" she asked. One sharp girl raised her hand and said, "Thou salt not kill." (1)

A first and second grade class Sunday teacher says that when she asked what the two main divisions of the Bible are, one little boy responded "The Old Intestine and the New Intestine." (2)

Every page of this Book is filled with part of the Adventure. From the story of Creation on the first page to the story of our final redemption on the last page. Sure, some of it is boring lists of genealogies. Some of it is rituals of sacrifice that ended 2000 years ago. But those parts are all part of the Book.

Most of us get bogged down because of those bits. I've thought for a long time, that the Bible was printed backwards. The New Testament is our story, I think it should come first. When we understand the New Testament and thoroughly ensconced in the Grace of God through Christ, then we can delve into the Old Testament and find out how we got here. Instead of the other way around.

You see, when most people pick up the Bible to read, they turn to the first page and immediately read about Creation and the Fall and how bad we were and are. But when you read the Gospel of Matthew you find a God of redemption who seeks redemption and wholeness for all of God's people. And that redemption comes in the form of a baby.

Much of the Old Testament is filled with Law. And The Law is like a mirror, a mirror that reflects what is WRONG with me and you and the world. The New Testament is all about Faith. It is filled with stories of faith. And Faith is a window, a window that lets us see what is RIGHT with God. A window that lets us see what and who makes us RIGHT with God

Anyway, as you can see, we're going to talk about the Bible today. Let's look at the passage from Paul's letter to the Ephesians 1:15-23.

[15] I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason

[16] I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

[17] I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,

[18] so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,

[19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

[20] God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

[21] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.

[22] And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,

[23] which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Specifically in verse 17 Paul says, "I pray that God . . . may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation."

Just like the Disciples at Pentecost, just like those gathered at the Ascension, we've been given the power and presence of God's Holy Spirit, the Risen Christ with us, as close as our breath, every moment of every day. Whenever we read and study Scripture that "spirit of wisdom and revelation" opens our hearts and our minds to both the glory and the will of God

In the passage from Acts we read about the Ascension of Jesus and the commission Jesus gave them to go into the world starting in Jerusalem, then going into Judea and Samaria and then even to the ends of the world. It was at that moment that the True Adventure of being an Apostle began. The other was just a training expedition.

For us, and especially for our third graders who are receiving their own study Bible today, when we crack open the pages of this book, The Adventure Begins. And in that Adventure we Discover God's Story and Our Story.


I. GOD'S STORY:

A. An archaeologist was digging in the Negev Desert in Israel and came upon a casket containing a mummy. After examining it, all excited he called the curator of a prestigious natural-history museum. "I've just discovered a 3,000 year-old mummy of a man who died of heart failure!" the excited scientist exclaimed. The curator told him to, "Bring him in. We'll check it out."

A week later, the amazed curator called the archaeologist. "You were right about the mummy's age and the cause of death. But I'm curious. How in the world did you know how he died?"

"Easy," said the archaeologist, "There was a piece of papyrus in his hand that said, '10,000 Shekels on Goliath'." (4)

B. We laugh because we know the story of the David and Goliath adventure of how God chose a young boy to defeat the greatest warrior and the greatest enemy Israel and Saul, the king, had ever experienced. The warrior and enemy were Goliath and fear. You see, while Goliath was big, the Israelites fear made him even bigger. In that story we're reminded of a couple of things for our adventure of life.

God is in charge. As a consequence God is bigger than any problem facing us. And God can use the smallest faith to overcome the largest doubt or largest circumstance which causes us fear in our lives. Remember, Jesus said, "If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, nothing will be impossible to you."

Then it teaches us that God is faithful and trustworthy. God didn't let David down. When David obeyed and walked out onto that battle field with nothing but his slingshot, a couple of smooth stones and the Spirit of God to protect him, God brought David victory.

David knew that God is faithful and trustworthy. As a consequence, David's faith in God trumped any fear he might have had of Goliath. And David was able to walk onto the field of battle with confidence.

We know all this because we know the story. And we know the story because someone took the time to teach it to us. And we took the time to listen and embark on the Adventure of Faith. So you see, it's God's Story but it's also Our Story.


II. OUR STORY:

A. It becomes Our Story as God's Story interacts with and lays claim to our lives and our faith.

As we read the Word and the words, we join in the adventure and stand with Mary as she hears the Angel tell she is the one woman, out of all women, who has been chosen to be the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. We meet the Wise men as they bring their gifts. We stand in awe with the Shepherds

We walk with Jesus along the Sea of Galilee and hear His words as he preaches the Sermon on the Amount. We stand in awe as he feeds 5,000 from a few loaves and fish. We tremble in awe and amazement as Lazarus comes forth from the tomb he has laid in for 4 days.

We witness Jesus' power as He calms the storm, heals the woman with the issue and has lunch with a Tax Collector named Zaccheus whose life is so changed by that one meal that he repays fourfold any who he has cheated.

We listen with curiosity as the Sadduccees and Pharisees try to trick Jesus on fine points of the law and laugh when He entangles them in their own snare. We marvel when Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a lost coin, a lost sheep and lost son.

We find ourselves strangely drawn in when we hear the words "Once there was a man who had two sons" And we can identify with each of the characters. The loving father, simply longing for his child's safe return.

The younger Son, who through plain old stupidity lost himself in the world only to wind up with nothing but the hope of repentance. And in that repentant, hoping only for the smallest handout.

And the older brother, angry because the younger brother, the one who took advantage, has been welcomed back into the fold while he stayed and worked his backside off without any thanks.

We tremble when Jesus is arrested. When stand aghast when He is whipped and crucified. Our hearts break when he dies and is buried. And then we rejoice when the tomb is found empty and we break bread with the Risen Christ on the Road to Emmaus and beside the Sea of Galilee.

And we stand with Saul, now Paul and repent with him and realize that Jesus' death on the cross wasn't a mistake. A tragedy but not a mistake because there on our own Road to Damascus we discover that Jesus died for us, just like He died for Paul and Peter, James, John and everyone else. And that changes our lives.

So you see, this Book is not only God's story it is Our story. Stanley Hauerwas from Duke writes: "The narratives of Scripture were not meant to describe our world.... but to change the world, including the one in which we now live." (5)

In other words, we don't change the message, the message changes us.

And that's the Adventure we begin every time we open the Bible. That's the Adventure the Disciples embarked upon that day they watched Jesus ascend into heaven and they began to attempt to carry out the great commission.

This Book filled with 66 books, letters, Gospels, stories of faith, poetry and song is our Book. It is The Book, God's Word, God's Story. And every time we read it, the Adventure Begins anew as God's Story intersects with Our Story in every possible way.


CONCLUSION:

I finally got to do it. I'd been saving it for about 10 years. A few months ago I mailed a particular Study Bible to the son of a friend of ours who was going overseas on assignment. I took it down to the Post Office to mail it and of course they asked me the standard questions when sending a package. They asked: "Is there anything breakable in here?" I replied, "Just the Ten Commandments."

None of them behind the counter would have gotten that had it not been for this book and the Adventure of Faith it engenders every time we open it.

To our third graders with their new Bibles I say, "Welcome to the Adventure." And to each of you, Let the Adventure Begin Again In Your Heart, through Christ. Let God's Story impact Your Story.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

______________________________

Bibliography

1. Leadership Vol.19, #4

2. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), Feb 2002 Dave Werner, Crossroads United Methodist Church

3. Adapted from The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), April 1997

4. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), Nov 2000

5. Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character Christianity Today Vol. 45, #13

Other References Consulted

Barclay, William: Daily Study Bible of the New Testament (WordSearch Bible Software Version)

Homiletics, (Communications Resources, Inc., Canton, OH)

Lectionary Homiletics, (Lectionary Homiletics, Inc. Midlothian, VA)

Dynamic Preaching, (Seven Worlds Publishing, Knoxville, TN)

The Clergy Journal, (Logos Productions, Inc., Inver Grove Heights, MN)

Preaching Magazine (Preaching Resources, Jackson, TN)

Circuit Rider, (The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, TN)

The Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1953)

The New Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995)

Lights, Camera...Faith by Peter Malone with Rose Pacatte (Daughters of St. Paul, 2002)

Praying the Movies by Edward McNulty, (Geneva Press, Lousville, KY, 2001)

Movie Clips for Kids (Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, CO, 2002)

Bore No More, Vols 1 & 2 (Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, CO, 1995 & 1999)

Group's Blockbuster Movie Illustrations, Vols 1 & 2 (Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, CO, 2001 & 2003)

Movie Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, by Craig Brain Larson and Andrew Zahn(Zondervan Publishing, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, 2003)

Videos That Teach: Vols 1-3 by Doug Fields & Eddie James (Zondervan Publishing, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, 1999, 2002, 2004)

SermonWriter by Dick Donovan (Copyright, Richard Niell Donovan, 2000

The Sermon Mall

Deacon Sil's Homiletic Resources

Richard Fairchild Lectionary Resources

Ministry and Media

Internet Movie Database

Preaching.com's Movie Ministry

The Text This Week Movie Theme Index

The Source For Youth Ministry Movie Clips