Summary: First sermon in the second part of an initial 2009 series, ‘2 Things 2 B in 09’
As I started to write this sermon, I read a blog in which the following question appeared, (Slide 1) ‘When you think of someone practicing Christianity, what is one of the first things that comes to mind?’
Would someone like Myrtie Howell come to mind?
Pastor Marc Axelrod says that Myrtie quit school at age 10 (this was many years ago) to work in a steel mill for 10 cents per day. She married at 17 but then when her husband died in 1940 she and her three kids lost their house and his income and she had to return to work to support them.
The years passed, notes Axelrod, and Myrtie ended up in a high-rise nursing home due to health and then, while there, went into a depression after her youngest son died. She responded, as many people do, with questions of God.
"Lord, what more can I do for you? I’ve lost everything that ever meant something to me. And now I’m stuck in this dark, dreary room. I have nothing left to live for! I want to die! I’ve had enough of this prison. Take me home."
But God was not through with her, Axelrod notes. He directed her to write to prisoners and she did.
Eventually she teamed with Prison Fellowship and started writing to over 40 prisoners across the county. ‘I thought my life was over,’ she later said. ‘But these past few years have been the most fulfilling years of my life! I thank Prison Fellowship! And most of all, I thank Jesus!’ I think that if you were to ask those prisoners this question they would probably say Grandma Howell comes to mind.
As we begin the final segment of our initial 2009 sermon series, I want us to learn a new word. ‘Missional’
(Slide 2) Missional. Not missionary but missional. What does it mean? Let me give you a short definition based on a statement by Rev. Dr. Clark Cowden of the San Diego, California presbytery. (Slide 2a) ‘adding value to people’s lives in Jesus’ name.’
Here is what he said that caught my attention. (Slide 2b) “The church is the ekklesia: the group of elders who sit at the city gates, discussing how they can add value to their community.”
Now I confirmed Cowden’s definition of ekklesia in another source and I want each one of us to ponder this idea of ‘adding value’ to our community; to people’s lives, in Jesus’ name, over the next three weeks as we consider becoming a missional church and missional believers. This is more Biblical than we think and Myrtie Howell is an illustration of being missional.
Marc Axelrod, after sharing this story goes on to say, ‘Myrtie Howell became a great missionary for God out of a one room apartment.’
‘No matter where you live or what your situation is like, God can still do wonderful things through your life. As long as your heart is still beating and your blood is still pumping, Jesus Christ is not through with you.’
(Slide 3) Our main text for this morning is Acts 1:8 “But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Now this is a very, very familiar verse to us and we have heard it many, many times. But I want us to see it with some new perspective.
And this new perspective is really, I believe, the original one.
This verse has been used to justify (and rightly so) the great missionary movement of the past centuries in which Christianity has truly gone global. This global reach needs to continue.
What I want to do is have us look at what happens after this verse and how the ekklesia operates and ‘adds value,’ to people’s lives. Our first stop is the opening verses of Acts 2. In these verses, we read of the coming of the Holy Spirit that, as Jesus said in 1:8, would bring the power to go and tell. Nothing will happen and nothing can happen until the Holy Spirit empowers it to happen.
With the Holy Spirit coming, a power to ‘tell people about me everywhere’ was brought and as we read the rest of the chapter we see that power manifest in the movement of God. Such power moved Peter to preach boldly the Good News and people came to the Lord.
Here’s the point: (Slide 4) We add value to our community as we allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in us, through us, and with us.
The Holy Spirit must be allowed ‘in’ us to empower us and change us for that, as Jesus pointed out in John 16:8. “And when he comes, he will convince the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.”