Scripture: Acts 1:1–11
This morning, we heard from FBC’s ABY youth group about their summer trip to Nashville (regional missions), and from FBC member Dava Cooper about her exploratory trip with AMOS Health and Hope in Nicaragua (international missions, “to the ends of the Earth.”) Please view the worship video to hear about their experiences.
Below is the text from Pastor Matt Sturtevant’s meditation, also found in the worship video.
Go do more stuff!
If you squint your eyes, it can feel like this is the unspoken thesis statement of the last couple of weeks. Spend the night at Family Promise! Give money to Bethel! Volunteer to help our youth learn about missions! Go to Nicaragua! But a danger in hearing only that message is that it becomes this obligatory thing. A danger is that we feel guilted into doing more stuff, because we think that it makes God love us more. A danger is that we do all this stuff, get burned out and resentful, and walk away from the whole thing. A danger is that we hear about all of this stuff to do, get overwhelmed by all the stuff, and end up not doing any of it.
So, let’s go back to Acts and ask if this is really the message that we are supposed to hear. Look again at verse 8, and notice the verbs. There isn’t a “go” in there. Or even a “do.” I read two big ones, which give us a bit of a different message. Receive. Witness. “You will receive the Holy Spirit, and you will witness the work of God in the world.” Do you see how those verbs are different from “go” and “do?” The main actor in those verbs is…not us. When we receive and witness, we are not the main character in the story, like Justo Gonzalez reminded us last week, but the Holy Spirit is. Receive and witness acknowledges that there is something going on bigger than us, that we participate in, but aren’t quite the generators of.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t do anything. It isn’t really implying a passivity or inaction. Let me suggest a metaphor. Communications experts, and therapists and counselors, all understand the importance of what is called “active listening.” Let me demonstrate with someone from the congregation…. Imagine if we are sitting with someone, listening to them. But when they start talking, we slump down in our chair. We look around…or even worse pick up our phone and start playing on it. Do you think that the person we are sitting with will think that we are actually listening? In contrast, active listening puts the whole of our energy into the act of hearing another. We put our phone away. We sit up to the edge of our seat. We look the person in the eye. We respond verbally, maybe even asking clarifying questions. We are fully active and participatory, but we acknowledge that we are not generating the conversation.
The metaphor works for our own personal mission commitments. Before you rush off and just start going and doing, I would invite you to sit in the chair of active listening. What is the Holy Spirit inviting you to do? Where do you feel that tug to participate in the work of God in the world? We’ve heard four examples…of four thousand….maybe there is something else that the Spirit is prompting you to do. Some other way that you might receive and witness. How can we do that? Pray, and ask God for wisdom. Ponder, and turn off the screens long enough to listen for an answer. Practice, and try on for size different kinds of ministry…hang out with kids at Family Promise or senior adults at Bethel. Volunteer to go on a mission trip, or help others to get there. Thank you to all of the folks who have stood up here and shared these last couple of weeks. Those who have volunteered, given, sacrificed an evening or a week to see God at work. And thank you…all you who are willing to sit in the chair of active listening.
One last P. Our purpose. Mother Teresa reminds us that “we cannot do great things, only small things with great love.” May we remember that before we can go to the ends of the earth, we have to go to the ends of our toes. To the work that God gives us—individually and personally—because it is the work that we are best suited to do. Let us “go and do stuff,” but do it with a heart of prayerful listening, of pondering and practicing, and purpose-driven love. Amen.