Redding Pilgrim
Congregational Church, UCC

Just As He Told You: 3-27-16 to 5-15-16

JUST AS HE TOLD YOU GRAPHIC

“Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised… Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.”  – Mark 16: 1-8

The subtitle of this series could be “When in Doubt, Read the Instructions!” Jesus’ time with his disciples was short. But from the beginning he began to prepare them to continue his ministry once he was no longer with them. This Easter season we will encounter teachings of Jesus that end up coming in handy as the early church struggles and thrives… ultimately handing on the instructions to us. What will we do with them?

“ G o !   T e l l ! ”     •    3 . 2 7 . 1 6
E a s t e r
“Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” – Mark 16: 1-8

After the Sabbath, on the third day after Jesus’ death, the women go to the tomb to anoint his body, as was the custom for dealing with the deceased. Jesus prior instructions were that he would rise on the third day and meet them at the shore of the Sea of Galilee, but it seems no one paid attention. It took an angel to remind them to do “just as he told you.” On this Easter Sunday, what promises do we need to remember and believe about the possibility of new life? What message are we called to go and tell?

“ S t a y ,   W i t n e s s ”   •   4 . 3 . 1 6
“He called for the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. – Mark 6:7-13

“…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 end of the earth.”
– Acts 1:1-14

Jesus sent his disciples on a “trial run” of sorts while he was alive. He gave them the power to witness, anoint and heal and sent them out with only the promise that they would be cared for. Now he has died, risen and been taken up to heaven–leaving them to carry out his ministry. They’ve been through a lot and must feel a bit powerless without him. But the instructions are clear. They will be his witness and the Holy Spirit will be with them. When we are feeling powerless to make change in this overwhelming world, will we proclaim the power of the Holy Spirit with us, just as he told us?

“ T o u c h ,   H e a l ”   •   4 . 1 0 . 1 6
“Wherever he went—villages, cities, or farming communities—they would place the sick in the marketplaces and beg him to allow them to touch even the hem of his clothing. Everyone who touched him was healed.” – Mark 6:53-56

“Peter said, ‘I don’t have any money, but I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise up and walk!’ Then he grasped the man’s right hand and raised him up.” – Acts 3: 1-10

The story of Jesus’ ministry is filled with people wanting to get close to him–especially those who needed healing. After he was gone, that power to heal was passed to his disciples. We hear of one such story this week where Peter reached out to help a man leave the shackles of his illness and not only walk, but leap and praise! As we endeavor to be closer to Jesus, growing as his disciples, we are invited to reach out and touch the pain of the world. How are we called to be agents of healing in our relationships, both personal and communal?

“ B e w a r e ,   D o n ’ t   W o r r y ”   •   4 . 1 7 . 1 6
“Watch out for yourselves. People will hand you over to the councils. You will be beaten in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of me so that you can testify before them… don’t worry ahead of time about what to answer or say. Instead, say whatever is given to you at that moment, for you aren’t doing the speaking but the Holy Spirit is. – Mark 13: 9-11

“You became imitators of us and of the Lord when you accepted the message that came from the Holy Spirit with joy in spite of great suffering. As a result you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”
– 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (Acts 17:1-9)

The early church story is filled with both great excitement and growth but also intense suffering. In a Roman occupation, it was subversive and dangerous to proclaim a “king” other than the political rulers of the day. Jesus’ own death was proof of this and he knew it would be no easier for those he left behind. But “watch out” instructions also came with “don’t worry”–you are never alone. God’s never-ending presence through the Holy Spirit in times of trial is sure. What are the risks of proclaiming that Love reigns over the greed, hate and phobias of our day? Can we hear the voice of Jesus urging us onward and offering assurance?

“ D o n ’ t   A r g u e ,   A g r e e   t o   D i s a g r e e ”   •   4 . 2 4 . 1 6
“…on the way they had been debating with each other about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.” – Mark 9:34-35

“Now I encourage you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Agree with each other and don’t be divided into rival groups. Instead, be restored with the same mind and the same purpose.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

It seems that competition and the need to be right or better lives in our human genes. Even in the presence of Jesus, the disciples would argue over who was the best and who was the favorite. Jesus explicit instructions were to resist our tendencies to put ourselves first. To be “great” is to have a servant’s heart toward our fellow sisters and brothers. The early church was fraught with divisions (sound familiar?). How is the Kin-dom of God diminished when our purpose is thwarted by attention to being better-than or “right” at all costs?

“ L o v e ,   t h e   M a i n   T h i n g ”   •   5 . 1 . 1 6
“The most important [commandment] is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
– Mark 12: 28-31

“If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal… Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.”
– 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13

In the letter to the fledgling Corinthian church, Paul offers a laundry-list of what love looks like. We can almost imagine that he is writing in response to some un-loving behavior that is going on (in the church, you say??!). When it came down to it, Jesus said that the litmus test for faithfulness to a loving God, is love. Bottom line. Have a  question about what you should do in any given situation? Ask where your actions stand on the love meter.

“ L i v e ,   N o w   a n d   F o r e v e r ”   •   5 . 8 . 1 6
“As for the resurrection from the dead, haven’t you read in the scroll from Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God said to Moses, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God isn’t the God of the dead but of the living.” – Mark 12: 26-27

“I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures… So if the message that is preached says that Christ has been raised from the dead, then how can some of you say, ‘There’s no resurrection of the dead’? If there’s no resurrection of the dead, then Christ hasn’t been raised either.” – 1 Cor 15: 1-26, 51-57

The resurrection from the dead was a long-standing and controversial issue among the Jews, even while Jesus was living. Jesus instructions to the Jewish rule-keepers of his day was to remember that God has always been the God of the living and life with God is everlasting. Letters to the early church acted as reminders of those instructions–of the promises of Christ that outlive his earthly life. We are to live as if death, the last enemy, has been conquered. Have no fear! Live fully–now and forever.

“ B e   O n e   i n   t h e   S p i r i t ”   •   5 . 1 5 . 1 6
P e n t e c o s t
“John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins… He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” – Mark 4: 1-8
“When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place… They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.” – Acts 2: 1-4

“There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone… We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink.” – 1 Cor 12: 1-13

Our series closes on this Pentecost Sunday with one last instruction–be one in the Spirit. The saga of the early church mirrors the church of today: we find it hard sometimes to hold onto our faith and know what to do in an ever-changing world. But there is Good News! The Spirit fills each of us with different gifts for being the church. And together we can make a difference… just as Jesus told us we could!