6/4/2000, Ascension, Year B
"Then he opened their minds to understand these many Scriptures. And he said, "Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again on the third day. With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me. You are witnesses of all these things. And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised, but stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven." Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. "While he (Jesus) was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. They worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple praising God." (Luke 24: 45-53, NLT)
Did you hear what happened when Forrest Gump died and went to heaven? At the pearly gates he met St. Peter who told him that new rules were in effect and that admission now required the answers to three questions: First, name two days of the week that begin with the letter "T". Second, how many seconds are in a year? Three, what's God's first name? Forrest thought a while and said, "I know; the two days of the week that begin with the letter "T" are today and tomorrow." St. Peter said that although that was not the answer he was expecting, he would allow it. Then Forrest said, "There are twelve seconds in every year." St. Peter gulped, "Okay, how do you figure there are only twelve seconds in a year? Forrest replied, "January 2nd, February 2nd, March 2nd..." "All right", said St. Peter, "I'll give you that one too. How about the third question?" Forrest said, "God's first name is Andy". "How do you figure that?", St. Peter asked. "You know" replied Forrest as he sang, "Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me, Andy tells me I am his own...." St. Peter welcomed him in without another word!
Most of us remember the 1994 movie in which Tom Hanks who portraying Forrest Gump, floated through life like the feather in the breeze, unknowingly affecting history and those around him with his innocent grace. One memorable line was when Gump said, "I am not a smart man, but I know what love is".
In the Christ event we are presented answers to life's basic questions that startle us, but even so they are all the right answers. They defy our human logic and limited information about the reality of our place in the infinite scheme of creation, but somehow we resonate with them.
The miraculous Birth, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ broadens our minds to believe beyond our familiar boundaries and to boldly bound into the realm of the spiritual. Subjective, heart felt, experiential matters like: Faith, Hope, Christian Love, Miracles, and Divine Inspiration, begin to effect our behavior and decision making.
Our Heavenly Father wants so much to open our understanding so that we might know the joy of this wonderful Gospel that He has entrusted to us. Just as the First Century Disciples felt "Great Joy" as a result of The Ascension of Christ and His promise that he was soon sending His Holy Spirit, so we can experience joy that casts out fear, and grief. This Promise of Pentecost is still meant for us First Methodist Believers in the Year 2000.
Sure, we will always grieve in bereavement, but not like those who have no hope. The First Disciples had witnessed the Resurrection and Ascension with their eyes; however, we can experience the Living Presence of Christ in our Hearts. This is the expectancy that builds in us as we look forward to next Sunday's celebration of the Day of Pentecost: We long for a re-authentication of that Blessed Assurance.
A friend of mine is dying and he knows it. He has a bad heart and he has had life threatening cancer. He is old and tired and he is ready to go on to heaven. He has said his good-byes and his "house" is in order. Yet, he still lives with great joy and an confident attitude that as soon as he ascends to heaven he will meet his sweet Jesus.
These First Century Christians were accused of acting drunk by outsiders as they watched them praise the Lord. I suppose that in a way being affected by the vital inner presence of God Almighty could be compared to inebriation. However, God wants to fill us with something that will only help us. So, we First Church folks wait. We wait on Pentecost 2000 as did the First Century Disciples.
Have we received the Holy Spirit, or do we worship God at a distance? We hear words but our spiritual ears are stuffed full of cotton balls. We are not quite sure if the feelings we have are from God, or from the pepperoni pizza you had last night.
Then there are probably some of us who have had it but it has worn off. It was not like the permanent tattoo we thought, but instead it wore off in a few days. God was in our hearts, but we later allowed room for the Evil One too. We come to church to kind of be reminded of what we lost.
The Good News is that the Good News is still Good News for all of us! No matter what situation we are in, God can come in and make it Good News! Its Free for All!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor