One of the difficult tasks we have in grief and trauma is making meaning. Let’s face it, we have been going through grief and trauma together for the past 18 months. We’ve been in and out of lockdowns, we’ve felt isolated and crowded, stressed and aimless, had flashes of success in being the people we want to be and some significant personal crashes. While this goes on, we tend to try to make some meaning out of that.
For this church, we’ve had extra challenges – a building project that meant getting together later, logistic and technical difficulties as we sought to stay connected, financial challenges we are still working through.
But we’ve also had some marvellous people join us, some incredibly creative solutions, some exciting opportunities and a greater identity with our community.
How do we frame this time? How do we understand it?
The thing I found intriguing is that much of what we have been doing instinctively has been the sort of thing that a group of disciples would do in the process of planting a church. I think that’s a good frame for us – we are planting a church. It’s Armadale Baptist Church, but because we’ve been underground for so long, the new year could be best seen as a time to plant a new church. Our population has changed – we have new people. Our structure has changed – we are growing the spiritual coaching groups and they are the most stable and “alive” part of who we are. We are looking for new leaders in 2022. The Community Arts Hub will re-launch – and so will the garden and the Gospel Project and mainly music after nearly two years of not having to be inert due to restrictions.
The book of Acts describes how the brand new church of the first century began and grew. It will help us know how to understand our time now, and what will be on the agenda when we plant.
in the first chapter, we find that instead of launching straight in, the disciples are told to wait until they receive the Holy Spirit. The disciples were in limbo. We are in limbo a bit right now, and we could be struggling to make meaning out of it. These disciples had just spent time on a mountain with the risen Christ. How freaky would that be? I would have a million questions – some of them about what its like to be resurrected, I’d want to know what he thought about all the people complicit in his crucifixion, lots of things because I’d just seen my leader and friend die and come back to life! The question the disicples ask is “Are you now, going to restore Israel? Are you going to overthrow our enemies, now that you’re indestructible? Are you going to make us into a crack SAS team that knocks out the oppressing rulers?” Is this the end times? Last week I heard a lot of jokes about being hit by plague, earthquake and what’s next? Locusts? Some people are getting apocalyptic, and so were the disciples.
But Jesus tells them to stop second-guessing God. God’s got things sorted and will do things in God’s own good timing – you don’t know the day or the hour and you don’t need to know. And to widen their thinking: you are to be witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the rest of the world. Jesus mission was not just to make things right for them, to restore things to the way the disciples wanted them to be. Jesus had a much bigger agenda, and was calling the disciples not to think about how to put things the way they want them, but to be good news to the whole world.
So let’s reframe: we are not going back and we are not going to be normal. We are going to consider the wider world – outside of our little group, and ask “what do they need to know of Jesus?”
No more second-guessing God. Widen our thinking beyond our own comfort.
Jesus also tells them to do something incredibly frustrating. The good news is that we’re kinda doing it now – wait. We are all waiting for restrictions to ease. But Jesus is telling them to wait on something else – the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit of God present with them in a way they can connect with. This is the strength and inspiration and guidance and power they will need to be those witnesses. If Jesus said to me “Jude, I can be fully inhabiting you with the power of God to make a huge difference in the world” I’d be saying “Great! Do it now! Go ahead!” but Jesus tells them to wait. How frustrating!
Let’s reframe our waiting – stop waiting on the government or health or stats or other factors and start waiting on God. God can do immeasurably more than we could imagine or dream, and it can be even more healing, strengthening, powerful and life-changing than picnics with friends or eating in a restaurant or going to the footy. We wait for the things we want to do, expecting that will come. Let’s learn to wait for God to do something amazing too.
While we wait, we’ve got some inner work to do. Jesus said the disciples will be witnesses – that’s our job. It’s to say “look – there’s God!” Mission isn’t about making things happen by ourselves, it’s about spotting what God is doing and pointing to that, and saying “Can you see Jesus?” The first place to point is our own lives. This waiting time is a great time to consider: what has God been doing in your life? What has changed for you? How has God answered your prayer? How has Christ sustained you through? When you have a chance to be a witness, what can you point to in your past couple of years that show what Christ is like?
So, we stop second-guessing. We widen our thinking beyond our own comfort. We wait. We consider our witness.
To find out what else we do, download the whole sermon: