Pr. Eric Swensson

May 7, 2013

photo of Pr. EricActs 1:12-26 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying... 24 And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place." 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Probably the silliest notion preachers can have is that they are somehow something special. I don’t think it is just me. I was ordained. I worked hard for that. It took years. I could have been a lawyer for all the reading and classes and tuition. And they don’t have to jump through all the hoops I did: I had to be endorsed by my synod, my seminary and a committee of the synod matriculated me, I had to do a year-long internship. That was followed by an examination by the synod, an exam by the national church, and then, I had to give a sample sermon and pass a candidacy committee and then survive leading worship and preaching and then with a yes vote, and installation. By golly, those people were lucky to get me. And then I have to endure the criticisms and the low pay, by golly I should have become a lawyer. At least they get respect.

I am not the only one who has had thoughts like this or something like that, I am sure. Actually, look around you and, do you not see some preening peacocks and some very proud congregations. How did it get to this? What is it we preachers should do about it? What should we actually expect out of this calling? I suggest instead of a preening about we should be hiding out.

That is where we find the apostles and the others who were following Jesus. Hiding out. It is perhaps easy to miss that here in the first chapter of Acts. It begins with the magnificent vision of Jesus ascending to heaven, and then they go back to where they are staying near Mt. Olivet. I hear the Mount of Olives and I think “I want to go back there”. Golden Jerusalem. Beautiful. Except it really wasn’t for them was it? They still had to lay low. The same people who had Jesus arrested and crucified could do the same to them. They had to go back to their hiding place and wait.

None of us much like waiting. And to wait for what, the coming of the Holy Spirit? What did that mean to them? I can imagine some of those conversations. “Always with the parables, Jesus was. I loved him, man, but could he give us a break? Could he say, wait until next Tuesday at 3:00 PM? No, we have to wait till we don’t know when and for what we are not sure of, but I suppose we will know the Holy Spirit when we meet Him.

So, next time I feel sorry for myself (which will not be too long from now I am sure) I will tell myself that at least I do not have to hide from the police, and I sort of know to where I am sent, and I can expect as a consequence from what I do as a witness to the resurrection.

However, perhaps it is not so very different for us, that is, if we get rid of all the silly ideas of what a pastor and a preacher are supposed to be. We have the same message. We really do. There is only one kerygma. The Kingdom of God has come near to us in Jesus. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, redemption has drawn nigh. It is a free offer made to all through the Word of God. What Peter knew, you know, what he said, we are to be bold to say again and again as often as we are given breath and opportunity.

God can find hiding-places for his people. They made supplication. We can make supplication. All of God's people can be praying people. It was for them a time of trouble and danger. Dangerous times are here for Christians in the Middle East and North Africa and may be coming for us all. Here in North America we are not in physical danger but you had better get any silly ideas about positions of respect out of your head.

They had now a great work to do; you have a great work to do. Just don’t expect you are going to get a totally different outcome than they. And before they entered upon it, they were earnest in prayer to God for his presence. They were waiting for the descent of the Spirit, and abounded in prayer. Those are in the best position to receive spiritual blessings are those who are in the praying position. Christ had promised to soon send the Holy Spirit; that promise was not to do away with much prayer, but to quicken and encourage it. A little company united in love, exemplary in their conduct, fervent in prayer, and zealous to promote the cause of Christ are likely to increase rapidly. The great thing the apostles were to attest to was Christ's resurrection; that He was the Messiah. That is our foundation; our hope is in this and nothing else. The apostles were ordained not to worldly dignity or dominion, but to preach Chris and the power of his resurrection...It is fit that God should choose his own servants; and so far as He, by His providence, or the gifts of His Spirit, let Him show us what He has for us, and let us wait again and again for His Spirit so we have the courage and the sense to fall in with his will. It is God that determines everything, especially any trust that may be committed to us.[f01]

God finds hiding places for his people when we find our hiding place in Him. The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runs to Him, and are safe. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. In ourselves we are nothing, but with Him there is nothing that is impossible. All who think they are strong will fall; let the rest of us fall in line with God’s will.

[f01] See Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary for Acts 1.