“When the Work Hurts”
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
April 3, 2016
Acts 5:27-32: 27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” 29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The work of apostles was in full swing by the time Paul was writing the book of Acts. Here again we are talking about the “work” of the church as we the people understand the making of disciples and the New Testament church.
As we read through this portion of scripture, please keep in mind the apostles had been arrested, imprisoned and at the time, had been set free from prison by the angels. Then, traveling to the seat of the Temple to proclaim the Good News and the words of Jesus, they make the great proclamation that it is, “God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior that He might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
Approaching the leadership with this claim, that Jesus was the Messiah and offered ultimate forgiveness to all, is not what the leadership (The Jewish and the Romans) wanted to hear, and they let them know that right away. Yet the apostles persevered to a level of ultimate proclamation. Then, with that persistence, the apostles were struck down. Until Gamiluel, a member of the council and an acclaimed Pharisee, stood up to warn the council that if they take on this task, they could be in trouble based on prior experiences. He warned them that this would (could) be a task not worth attempting and sited the Thaddeus and Judah Galilean story. They too had failed at silencing these proclamations of the faith. He then suggested to leave them alone, for this was not going to end well.
Here, my friends, we find the penultimate message of this new testament text (gospel text), that being, “the proclamation of the Gospel will require hard and arduous work for those who seek and choose to proclaim it as the Good News of Jesus Christ.” We have a great teacher in Luke as he proclaims the notion that the church “accentuates the positive” in life, thus, the Good News!! It is the true mission of the church!
So we make our moves in transition in today’s world much like Luke made in his world. For Luke, here in Acts, Jewish and Roman officials have the upper hand; they are the ruling bodies, and yet, the rise in Christianity (i.e. the early Church) was the minority. Yet the proclamation we heard earlier is central to what Peter proclaims in v. 29, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”
How relevant is this to our world today? We look at a raging political arena, on both sides of the isle, and the quest for human power and authority rages boldly. We are confronted with this quest for human consumption and in doing so, we are tempted to skirt by the proclamation of Peter. We are tempted most in the areas of human authority, when we know that the true allegiance rests in the God who created us, sustains us, and redeems us.
You see my friends, this is work! This is not simply resting in that proclamation and hoping something is going to happen. It is work that requires us to “preach” what we believe to a world that has succumbed to an intervention of human control that appears to be more appealing in the short term as opposed to the long term claim that God’s authority reigns supreme.
Therefore, our boldness in proclamation and preaching must become active rather than passive. Reverend J. Michael Krech, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Somerville, Tennessee, says it in these remarkable words, “However, preaching is not saying what people want to hear, it is saying what people want to say.”
Therefore our voices as Easter people must be voices for the Church, for the God proclaimers. We must be willing to amass and claim, just as Peter did, that God’s authority is the ultimate authority. We must do this with love and a connection of deep, deep truth that will shake the world and call them back to an understanding that the message of God’s authority is set and understood; that is what needs to be proclaimed. Possibly the emphasis of this text is not so much on what is to be preached (proclaimed) as is on “how” to proclaim it in a world filled with vocal clutter, loud noise, arguing rhetoric, and social messages of hate and anger. The key, however, is to proclaim it without revenge, without a hope of payback, but out of authentic love for God and one another.
Yes my friends, this is hard work, but it is the work of the Easter people who have experienced a brutal death, a glorious resurrection, and have now been instructed to do the work of God, in Jesus Christ, out of a bold love for one another.
Therefore, let us come to the table of Our Lord to be nourished and fortified to proclaim with boldness, the message of the Easter people.
AMEN and AMEN.