No Gathering This Weekend, July 6/7

1-Captain-America-Marvel-ComicsThere is no gathering this week for The Table. Enjoy the holiday weekend; spend time with friends; pray for your neighbors; and, have fun!

Next week, July 14th, we’ll gather for worship at the library. Until then, here’s the manuscript of last week’s sermon. It frames the season of prayer we’re in.

 

Why Are We on Mission? Acts 13:4-12

It was great to celebrate The Table’s 3rd birthday last Sunday.  For me it was cool to hear again how God has moved in our midst.  It was cool to see how we are living out the mission that God has called us to live.  Our mission is to love God while we love others, to strive to live more like Jesus.  This is seen in as we live out the rhythms of Jesus, of Hospitality, Discipleship, and Blessing.

Of late, God is calling us to something more specific, to a commit this summer season to prayer and outreach.  Over the last month or so, we’ve been laying the foundation of this season.  Alvin shared on the power of prayer in the lives of those we are reaching out to.  And from that, we’ve been asking God, “Who are the 5 people/households that He would have each of us bless w/ our prayers?” And tonight we are going to formally begin these prayers

 

Series

To help us in this journey, we are looking at and studying Acts 13. In this chapter, the church in Antioch sends out its 1st missionary team.  So as we study this chapter, we are asking ourselves the question: “Why are we on missions?”  Last week we looked at Acts 13:1-3, and saw that we are on missions b/c we are called by God, and that God goes before us to bless others, so we can move w/ ease. Knowing God goes before us, we can rely on His leading.  Next time, we’ll look at Acts 13:13-43, and see that we’re on mission for the purpose of encouraging others and bringing wholeness, recognizing that it is God who fulfills.  Then we’ll finish it up and look at Acts 13:44-52, and see that we’re on mission to bring the message and reality of salvation, seeing that God’s salvation is for all.

 

Text

This week our text is Acts 13:4-12. In the 1st three verses of Acts 13, the church of Antioch was praying and fasting in worship.  They were in a moment of high expectation, as perhaps we are. God spoke to them, and told the church to send Saul and Barnabas to preach the good news of Jesus to the non-Jewish world.

This is where Acts 13:4-12 picks up. So as we read this, ask yourself what the trouble in the text is, and what the good news of the text is.  What’s the conflict, and what’s the evidence of good news of Jesus?

Look at Acts 13:4-12:

The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper. They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

We see that as they traveled, they proclaimed the word of God in synagogues, just as previous evangelists had done. But then God opens the door for a presentation of the good news in a truly Gentile setting, w/ a Roman official.  Sergius Paulus was the proconsul of the island.  A proconsul was a Roman governor of what was called a “settled” province, verses “procurators,” like Pilate, who governed military provinces that were not yet settled.  These settled provinces had seats in the Roman Senate, and were more established.[1]

In this passage, Saul is first called Paul.  Luke gives us the impression that Paul always held both names, but Saul was more Jewish, while Paul was more Roman.  Some think Paul made his Roman name more prominent starting in this moment to relate specifically to the governor, who shared his name, Paulus.  Others believe Paul took on his Roman name to relate in general to the non-Jewish world he was reaching out to.[2]

So what’s the trouble of the text?  You’ve got Paul and Barnabas preaching the good news of Jesus. They encounter resistance.  They encounter Bar-Jesus, meaning “Son of Joshua.”  He was an assistant to the governor.  The governor wanted to hear the gospel, and Bar-Jesus opposed them and tried to turn the governor from the faith.  To me, this means that the governor was either an initial believer in Jesus or seeking Jesus or simply curious about Jesus, and Bar-Jesus wanted to block his path to Christ.  This is the trouble of the text in my mind.

The trouble in the text and the trouble today is that not everyone favors God’s mission. Like Paul, when you share the love of Christ w/ others you encounter opposition. When you begin praying this week for your 5 folks, you will meet resistance.  Praying for freedom and wellness is not something our enemy desires.  So expect opposition.

But where there is trouble, there is also good news. How did you see God working in the text? The Good News I see in the text is that this was God’s mission, this was God’s mission.  This is seen in 4 ways: in v. 7, God was preparing the governor’s heart, in v. 8, it’s implied that God had brought the governor to some kind of faith, in v. 9 Paul met opposition, and the Holy Spirit equipped Paul to confront lies and Bar-Jesus’s resistance to the gospel was ceased, and in v. 12, we saw that God kept the message of Jesus at the center, when the governor believed b/c of the teachings of Jesus.  The good news is that this was God’s mission.  He prepared it.  He brought faith. He defeated opposition. And, He confirmed faith w/ Jesus’ teachings.

 

Difference

I believe this good news is also ours. Knowing it is God who calls us to faith, prayer and outreach means it is not our idea but His.  It won’t be fueled by our energy, but His empowerment.  To answer our series question, we are on mission to share words of life and confront lies.  Knowing that the mission is God’s gives us freedom to breathe these words of life, to pray and speak w/ confident b/c we know that He is already preparing hearts, knowing that it is He who brings folks to faith.  Knowing this is God’s mission gives us freedom to gracefully address falsehood and opposition.  So when we get discouraged we can speak His words over our discouragement.  And when we face opposition we can faithfully and tactfully simply share and present truth.  Knowing this is God’s mission gives us freedom remain focused on Christ, not on worrying how we, by our own time and abilities, are going to fulfill the mission, but living and acting in the freedom of Jesus, and focusing on remaining rooted in Him.

 

Season of Prayer

God is calling our church to prayer this summer, specifically to pray for 5 people or households who need Jesus to reign.  When we make intercessory prayers for these folks, we are partnering w/ the God of power.  We lay our requests before the throne of power, and God brings His blessings upon them, creating connections b/t those people and Himself, b/t us and our friends.

So who are those God is calling you to pray for? We’re challenged to pray for 5 folks, but that might not be what God has for you.  Your number could be 3 or 13.  They could be near or far.  We’re not doing this to boost attendance, but b/c this is what God would have us do this summer.  So who are your 5?

How are we to be praying? A brochure from Harvest Prayer Ministries holds a plan that the leadership of the church prayed through and believes we should follow.  Again, we are staying loose and open to what the Holy Spirit has for us, so don’t feel tied to it.  But this plan is simple, intentional, and authentic.  We are simply encouraging us to commit to praying 5 blessing for 5 people for 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 5 weeks.  The 5 blessings are listed in the acronym “BLESS.” Pray that God would bless your 5 people in Body/health, in their Labor and security, in their Emotional wellbeing, in their Social world and relationships, and in their Spiritual wellbeing, for salvation and greater faith in Christ.  It’s a simply call, but one of great commitment and authenticity.

So beginning this week we are called to pray for these 5 folks/households until mid-August.  At our August 11th worship gathering we will continue to pray for our friends, but will complete this season.  From there we’ll consider how we can bless these folks.  In the mean time we’ll be praying together for our people, in worship, in gatherings, and in community.

I am excited for what God has in store for us.  I’m excited to be able to authentically share w/ my friends that I’ve been praying for them, and to see how God has moved in their hearts.  I’m excited to see my heart change for my 5, and how God will grow me.  I’m excited to see God transform lives.  It may not happen in 5 weeks, but I know God is up to something among us.

So I invite you to join us in this, to put the brochure on your fridge to remind you, to put prayer time in your iPhones or daily calendars.  This is God’s mission.  He goes before us, and is inviting us to come along.

 

Amen.



[1] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Ac 13:7). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] David Williams. New International Biblical Commentary: Acts. p. 227

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