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For many years, Chad and I would make the trip to Panama City Beach, Florida from Springfield, MO. We would celebrate Easter with our congregation and then take off by ourselves or with another minister couple for the entire week..no kids and no sermons to prepare! We looked forward to this well worn path that went from Springfield, wound through a beautiful section of Arkansas through Memphis down to Birmingham, Alabama, Dothan and on down. 10 hours of very familiar territory. We could just turn our brain off and imagine the beautiful clear water that we were headed towards. On one occasion, we were headed home from a week at the beach. We had settled into the routine drive but then when we approached Birmingham, we looked out and saw military personnel with large guns on one side and then we glanced over to the other side and saw a whole neighborhood completely flattened. We had not watched TV or been on our phones for an entire week and so we had no idea that a massive tornado had come through the area. We were shocked but continued on our way home.
Our trip continued along the same path until we came into Arkansas where we were diverted to an alternate route because of massive flooding. We perked up and our learning brains turned back on because we had never been this way before! We had to head south and keep heading south and keep heading south for hours so many hours that first our cell phones had no reception and then our phones died. We don’t carry a paper map and our cars don’t have navigation…all you might learn from this sermon today is to carry a paper map and car charger!!!! So, in the middle of nowhere Arkansas, we found a police officer to help us. At first, we asked him questions about how to get back to our original way of traveling home, but then we realized that our well worn path was no longer an option. We quickly wrote down all the new cities and landmarks that would help us navigate our way home. We had expected a routine drive on a well worn path, but instead, we were on the edge of our seats engaged in a total mind, heart and spirit adventure!
How well do we do when we have to switch courses mid stream? What happens when all of our careful planning gets thrown out the window? What happens when we are driving and we have to take a major detour and our cell phones quit working?
I think that it is safe to say that many of us feel like this picture exhausted, stressed, anxious. There are some of us though that love a challenge and feel energized by an opportunity to do something different.
Today, I want us to look at Acts Chapter 1 where Jesus gives the disciples a new road map for the future. Let’s explore this text together and see how they do with a change of plans!
So when they had come together, they asked him, Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel? He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But 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.”
Now let’s remember the road map that the disciples thought they were signing on for when they began to follow Jesus:
–healing, feeding and gathering true followers
–raising up an army to defeat the Romans
–Jesus becoming king —-The Goal!
–judging the other nations
This was the plan since the Old Testament times after the exile when the people of God longed for another King David to enter the scene and restore the Kingdom.
The disciples don’t quite know what is happening yet so there first question is asking about the previous road map. “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the Kingdom to Israel?” What they really want to know is now that Jesus has been raised from the dead, are we back on track to follow the same map? Where do we pick up? I think we missed a few steps? Then, Jesus answers them by saying the kingdom is already here (WOW) but not yet fully realized (OH). What does he mean??? What is happening??? So Jesus gives them a new road map and a job in the New Kingdom.
- Coming of the Holy Spirit (the power to do all that you will need to do)
- Witness to Jerusalem (your people)
- Witness to Judea (extended family that you might only see once a year)
- Witness to Samaria (those we were in relationship before but that relationship is broken; we hate or don’t trust; they betrayed us before!)
- Witness to the ends of the earth (the other that we can’t even imagine are “supposed” to be included in the Kingdom)
Job: The Scripture says, “to be my witness.” What it means is that they will be Heralds of the message of Jesus like Kings used. In the past, when a king would speak, the heralds would be stationed farther and farther away from the king. The king would speak, the closest herald would give the message to those farther away who could not hear the king, then another herald would pick up the message and give it to the people farther out who could not hear the king or the first herald. And on and on until the entire kingdom could hear the message of the king.
With a new non linear Road Map.
But they can’t even start on this road map because they are supposed to wait for the Holy Spirit, so what do we do in the mean time?
This “in the meantime is what Karl Barth calls a “significant pause.” Our text today is the significant pause between the Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus had just appeared to the disciples over a 40 day period to give them many convincing proofs that God had raised him from the dead and teaching them about the Kingdom of God. Then after his final instruction, Jesus was lifted up. After Jesus’ Ascension the disciples entered an indefinite time of waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
A significant pause can be a time of change where we are challenged to let go of one thing so that we can receive the next thing. A significant pause can be the time of discernment where we as a church wait for God to speak on an issue that we need clarity. A significant pause can be a time where we have been successfully ministering to the community one way but need a break to consider if we are going to continue to minister in that same way, not at all or in a new way. I don’t think that it is going unnoticed that we have been in partnership with God for 40 years as a church. God called the church into being 40 years ago and I believe we are in this significant pause.
For the disciples, this significant pause was about preparing themselves to be Heralds for the New Kingdom with a completely different road map. Jesus was giving them time to consider the change that needed to take place within themselves.
During a significant pause for any person or any organization we have some thought patterns taking place.
I was reading about the Neuroscience of changing thinking. In this article, the author was talking about that our brain is always in 1 of 2 modes. We are either in protective mode or learning mode. We are born in learning mode. We say kids are like sponges because they are soaking up everything around them! As we grow, we continue in learning mode until we feel that what we know to be true is threatened. When we have anxiety about a situation whether there is real threat or not our brain switches to protective mode. This is a natural tendency that is useful in some situation. But here is the problem, when you switch into protective mode, you cut off the higher thinking parts of the brain that help you deal creatively with challenges. In protective mode, we feel the danger or the threat, our bodies experience the threat (we tense up) and everything shuts down. The disciples went into protective mode in the first part of our scripture. They were trying to protect the first road map, the plan that they signed up for at the beginning! This is natural. So we have to learn to realize what is happening in a non judging way and then flip the switch back to learning mode. Flipping the switch involves learning to struggle with our fears, speak language to ourselves and our bodies so that our logic and emotions work cooperatively. Â In learning mode, our brains and our emotions can work together to help us creatively come up with the best solution.
Expansion. Not only do they have to pray that God would expand the way that they think, but they have to expand their hearts.
One Practice that helps Flip the Switch: Body opening
We can actually trick our mind into switching back into learning mode by becoming aware of our body posturing and changing our postures from closed body postures to open body postures. In doing this, we are telling our brain that we are in learning mode!
As we become aware, we have to make sure that we do so in a non Judging way: we don’t judge ourselves as bad if we find ourselves in a stressful situation and in the body posture that is closed. We also can’t judge others. As you become aware of your own body postures, you will also become aware of others. This helps us realize that others might feel protective of something but we can’t know what. For example, when Chad and I were newly married, we would be in class together or at work and every time I would ask a question or speak, Chad would scrunch up his body and his face…in a closed position. I finally had to ask him what I was doing wrong and why he was making that face! He shared that he felt protective of me. He was hoping that people could hear my question and understand me! So bringing awareness in a non judging way gives us good questions to ask ourselves and each other!
Body, emotions and brain serve us best by working together to help us be our most creative selves when facing challenges. This is the goal to get ourselves in learning mode in stressful situations!
During this significant pause some pretty amazing things are going on neurologically but what did the disciples do during this time. Here is what the scripture says that the disciples did: Acts 1:13a & 14a
When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying..all these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer.
Richard Rohr talks about that we have 3 types of people: gut, heart and brain people. Here are the different types of prayers that he says works best for the people in these catagories.
Head Types seek input from the outside. They want an image, a picture, a symbol or a text to inspire and move them. Heart types seek to express themselves so the movement is from the inside out. They let inner moods and images develop and then express it through art or words. Gut Types desire to let it all go. They seek the emptiness of letting the outer and inner impulses go to get to complete stillness. Which one are you most drawn to?
These are all starting points, but Rohr challenges the types by saying if you just stick to what is comfortable then you get stuck. In my own words, I hear him saying “If you want to become a person who is expansive in the way they think and love, then practice the prayer that is the most foreign to you.”
Brene Brown was quoted in the article on changing thinking patterns saying, “We are wired to struggle to learn, to engage in processes that make us feel vulnerable and expand us allowing us to continually move out of the limiting comfort zone that serve a purpose for a time until they no longer serve us. “
There is that word again..EXPAND. The greatest part of our text for this morning is that the disciples knew that God was about to act AGAIN in a significant way. As Disciples of Christ, we enter into our own time of significant pause knowing that God still speaks that God still acts in human history.
Benediction: This type of significant pause for the disciples created expansive space for the best possible chance of something amazing happening! Luke Timothy Johnson says it like this “The people who have these experiences are already attentive to the Lord in Prayer and thus open to new and surprising ways that God might act.”