Summary: A sermon about mission.
"Who is Our 'Man from Macedonia'?"
Our Scripture passage from Acts starts out with a series of experiences which must have been extremely disheartening and discouraging for Paul and "his companions."
They had made huge commitments and sacrifices in order to go out on this long and dangerous missionary journey, but things weren't working out as they had planned.
They had, perhaps, mapped out what was going to happen before they left.
They had envisioned going to the province of Asia and gaining a whole bunch of new converts there...
"the Holy Spirit kept them" from doing it.
Next on the agenda was the province of Bithynia, "but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn't let them" go and spread the Good News there either.
It's interesting to note that these are all places that Paul or other missionaries had already visited.
We can't know exactly how long Paul and his companions wandered "all dressed up with no place to go" but it could have been weeks or even months.
Anyhow, we are told that "Passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas intead."
And then it happened!!!
Paul has a vision at night.
Paul sees a man from--Macedonia--that's in Europe!!!
That's across the sea and into a totally new area.
In the vision "a man from Macedonia...stood urging Paul, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.'"
The weeks or months of walking and waiting, of wondering and praying had led to this.
They weren't going in the direction they had planned for themselves at all.
They were off to Europe following the Spirit's lead.
And as we see, pretty much right away, they meet a woman named Lydia.
Her heart is ready to receive the Word of Christ.
As we are told in verse 14: "As she listened, the Lord enabled her to embrace Paul's message."
Then she and her entire household were baptized and a brand new church was started in her home.
Who is our "Man from Macedonia"?
What doors are being shut and what doors are opening up?
What vision is God giving us as we seek the future mission of this Church.
And a Church must have a mission.
A church without a mission will most certainly die.
God is alive.
The Holy Spirit is active.
There is a plan for those who are willing to do what God has called us to do.
There is a future for those who listen to their "Man from Macedonia."
Are we listening?
I've been pretty 'blown away', shall we say by the response of the community, the other United Methodist Churches in our district and Conference to what YOU all did when the Superior Creek Lodge was shut down.
You immediately opened this church up as a temporary shelter.
And Marcy, along with the help of some others has been tirelessly working to find permanent housing for the families who were literally put out on the street last month.
Now, why do I say I've been blown away by the response to what this church is doing and has done?
Well, to me it's a no-brainer.
This is just what churches do, isn't it?
Why else do we exist?
We were on t-v, on the front page of the newspaper and are the talk of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church.
I can't hardly go anywhere without someone saying to me, "I really appreciate what you all are doing over there at East Ridge United Methodist Church."
Just about every single United Methodist Church in the Chattanooga District has sent a check to our church in order to help pay for housing, electric bills and so forth for the displaced families of Superior Creek Lodge.
Many, many people in the community--folks I've never met have sent checks and letters.
A woman named Teresa Henley wrote the following: "My faith has been renewed by what your church is doing!
I fell out of church years ago due to not seeing God or Jesus anywhere.
This is what church is all about and I'm thankful there are some churches still left that do the true work of the Lord."
Alex Boyle wrote: "Your church has stepped up to serve as Christ would have us to.
You have no idea how deeply touched I was to see your church van in the parking lot of that condemned hotel in East Ridge...
...To see at least one church doing what Jesus would do, was such a wonderful blessing to me."
Someone who signed their name simply D.R. wrote: "Thank you and your church for this worthy missionary work right here in our own back yard."
Our District Superintendent is quoted in one news story saying that "East Ridge is a model for how churches should work."