Sermon for July 14, 2019
Can Anything Stop Gods Plan?
Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista, UCC
Rev. Liz Aguilar
This is a long portion of Acts that we will be covering today. It might be the longest portion of scripture I have preached about, ever. But as we continue to study the book of Acts, its important that we keep moving forward and also that we keep the portions of the over-all story together, in sections that make sense to the entire story.
Here we are in the story where we see that the Apostles population as leaders and teachers has not waned. In fact, it has increased. They are healing more people and so more people are beginning to follow them. Not only that, they have continued to defy the religious authorities but they have not ceased to proclaim Jesus as the Savior but have increased their message.
We heard that the result of their increase in ministry is that they are arrested, yet, again. However, once again, God intervenes and miraculously through an angel they are released from prison.
Of course, the authorities dont give up, however and so after they notice that the apostles are gone. They have them re-arrested for questioning, (but without violence), for fear of a revolt by the people They want to question the apostles and probably want to intimidate them.
However, their questioning only serves to make Peter speak up again about the person of work of Jesus Christ. He basically sys that because they were witnesses of His ministry they can not keep silent.
The courage of the Apostles only serves to anger the Sadducees even further and they are about to be thrown in jail again, when a certain religious leader advises them to leave the Apostles alone and instead wait it out. His council is that if the apostles teaching is the real thing, they will succeed. If not, they will fail.
The Apostles arent kept in prison this time but instead they are beaten up. The response of the Apostles is to praise God and rejoice that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name (of Jesus). Their numbers continued to increase and they continue to teach.
That is basically the re-cap of todays scripture. What are we to make of it? How are we to understand what was happening then and what God might be inviting us to take away from this story? Three things come to mind:
- It certainly shows us that the Apostles were determined, despite continued persecution, to spread the message of Jesus to others and to continue carrying out their ministry of healing and teaching.
- It showed us that the religious authorities were indeed threatened and were going to try their best to put the apostles in their place and further intimidate and punish them.
- It showed us that God, however, had other plans. An Angel releases them and later someone that the authorities respect advises them to leave the Apostles alone as a test of their worth.
My over-all take away about this portion of this scripture are two-fold. Firstly, that nothing was going to stop the Apostles from doing what they needed to do. They had a mission and they stuck to it. I admire their perseverance and their total focus on their mission. They do not let any opposition, threat, danger or even physical harm stop them. I am not I can be that brave but I certainly admire their work and their reaction to the opposition they encountered.
At the same time, it is also clear to me that the reason they were able to keep on course was because of three things.
-They new who and what they were about
-They relied on the power and presence of God in their midst
-They relied on one another
This story also encourages me to hold fast to my own mission no matter what ever opposition I may encounter along the way. One recent commentator I read stated that if there was a central message to the Book of Acts it is that Gods plan is unstoppable.
Think about it- nothing and no one can stop us from doing what God wants us to do. There is nothing human that can stop us. Do you believe that? Do you believe that on a micro and a macro level? Do you believe, for example that the mission you have as an individual or for your family is a) the right one; b) the one God wants for you and c) will come to fruition?
I see todays story as a reminder that indeed we must stick to whatever mission God has placed on our lives. Be it as individuals, as families or as a church.
But back to their success- The second take away is that they relied on God and each other. To this point, I have a question for us to consider:
My question is this: do you rely on God? Do your really believe that God will provide for your needs, protect you when needed and therefore, show you the way out of no way?
What is your mission? Do you have one? Have you asked God if that is the mission God has for you?
What is our mission as a church? Is it to just worship God on Sundays? To feed the poor and the homeless? To feed those who are spiritually hungry? To be a center of transformation and change? To be a beacon of hope in a dark world? To be a place where people feel safe safe enough to agree to disagree, safe enough to be respected and treated kindly, safe enough to know that here people demonstrate the love of God with one another and with strangers? To be a place where we not only respect each others differences but also embrace the, celebrate them, and therefore continue to welcome others? What is our mission?
What about their reliance on one another? We get the sense that they didnt carry out this ministry on their own, did they? They relied on one another. They were never alone in their work or witness to Gods purpose.
One of the hardest things I have encountered at every place of ministry and new place I have lived is to find my network of people whom I will journey and work along side with. I have had to re-build that team over and over and yet one thing has remained constant- God always provided.
Therefore, just as they relied on each other they mostly relied on Gods provision. They never lost sight of their faith in God not because they were necessarily holy but because they knew God would not fail them. Do you know that? Do you believe that?
Yesterday my niece and I were speaking about the ways God has shown Gods love and provision in our lives. It was exciting and even encouraging to hear how God has shown Gods mercy and plan for my niece throughout her three years away at college. We shared our stories freely and I would dare say that it helped us both as we continue to move forward.
My prayer is that we can continue to trust God as we begin to define our mission as individuals, as families, and as a church. Let us do so, expectantly and joyfully!