Here, There, and Everywhere

Here, There, and Everywhere – May 28th, 2017

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Acts 1:6-14

6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

As Easter is waning and just before Pentecost is waxing, we have the mysterious vision of Jesus’ ascension. Most people don’t pay much attention to this day – it was recognized on May 25th – Thursday – I had other things going on – there was KidStuff Graduation, visits to be made, sermons to be outlined.

The world pays much more attention to his arrival at Christmas – and far less to his departure… but there are some important similarities…

Very few people were there. His birth had Mary, Joseph, and a handful of shepherds. His departure had the eleven remaining disciples.

What did the shepherds do when they heard what was going on…they moved forward…wanted to see more…they told the story of what they had witnessed. Here at the ascension, Jesus instructs the small group to tell a big story.

It all starts with a question – is now the time? Is this the moment…you finally make all things right. Are you bringing Israel back???

How will we know when? Jesus only gives the where.

You will get power – not as the world gives, but a heaven sent divine authority. The Holy Spirit is about to blow in a new and powerful way.

You will be my witnesses.

Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Bigger and bigger…

The disciples asked about the restoration of Israel, and Jesus told them this is about the redemption of the world. The call is getting bigger and bigger.

God’s doing amazing things…but he’s doing them through the disciples – those who witnessed now need to go and bear witness. That is still the mandate for today…

It’s not going to be easy…Jesus never promised it was going to be easy. He only promised he would be with us.


Second Reading 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11

4:12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

5:6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.


It’s been an interesting week, and we know there is a time of transition ahead of us… I know at times like this, congregations can feel orphaned. I’ve experienced it before… How long must it have been for the disciples – 10 days between when Jesus left and the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost… waiting is a holy time (sure, it’s filled with anticipation and anxiety; faith and fear; wonderment and worry.)

This is the text of the first sermon I ever preached after my ordination 15 years ago in Oceanside, California. The senior pastor was going to be out of town, and he had only one piece of instruction. Don’t forget to mention it’s Memorial Day…he had forgotten to do so the previous year and had caught all kind of flack.

Memorial Day – remember what others have done in the past for us.

Waiting is never easy – but it’s better when we remember what God has done for us in the past…when we pull that into the present…

Transition does not mean a time of trial…but even if trials come, it doesn’t mean we have lost hope. Absence does not mean abandonment. This is the First Presbyterian Church – It does not belong to any one pastor or ministry focus… this is Christ’s church.

Jesus tells the disciples they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them.

  • Jerusalem
  • Judea
  • Samaria
  • Ends of the Earth

Here, there, and everywhere.

Here – Community Clinic, Crosslines…Lafayette House…Children’s Haven…PCHAS

Budgets are moral documents – family, church, state, federal – the numbers proclaim what is most important to the community. We should always examine what is hidden in those figures. Do they make for peace or for war? Do they help the few at the expense of the many? Are they inward focused or outward moving?

Of course, if we see mission as only a line item in our budget, we are lost, and we will die. If we see mission as our mission…mission as our witness…well then, now we are cooking with gas.

  • I don’t see Community Clinic as just a number on a spreadsheet…I see people like Don volunteering. I see flu shots and dental care. I see medicine and hope.
  • I don’t see Crosslines as just another benevolence – I see Jackie and Karen and countless others giving their time. I see cans of soup from the Souper Bowl of Caring, toiletries, and fresh pairs of socks.
  • I don’t see Lafayette House, Children’s Haven, or the Ashley House as part of the budget – I see them as buildings of healing, restoration, and redemption.


You’re going to be my WITNESS.


James – what good is it when you see your brother or sister in need and say be well, be fed, be good…but don’t do anything to help them. Charity is good, but working for justice is better. Hear the word…and DO the word.

We don’t measure the effectiveness of a church by its number – we see it in the good that is going on HERE, THERE, and EVERYWHERE.

Joplin is our Jerusalem (a city on a hill and a city where the Ozarks meet the Plains) 12 tribes and 4 states… Driving yesterday…mile marker 122… drive slow… stopping, praying, and swaying… We are from Joplin. We are witnesses… the 502 Building, ShoalKirk…

This region is our Judea…like minded folks (and those we see as a little different…)

Your Samaria is wherever you feel uncomfortable going and serving. Teaching Jonah last week to the Mariners class… God says Ninevah, but Jonah went to Tarshish… Great Fish… 3 Days… Finally gets to Ninevah… and what happens? They confess, convert, change… do you think that makes Jonah happy… no, and do you know why? Jonah was at the smallest circle of God’s love… it’s a pea sized peace… For me and no one else…


The ends of the earth…

What have you witnessed?

What are you willing to bear witness to today?

Power when the Holy Spirit comes – wait for it. “Cast all your anxieties upon Him, because he cares for you…”


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