Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hop on the Agabus - Acts 11:19-30

Acts 11:19-30

In this sermon, I suggest that we as a community of believers begin to look for more guidance from the Holy Spirit, even more so than scripture...

How come no one names their boys Agabus? 
I searched babynames.com 
And there were two boy names that began A.G.A. -  Agamemnon, and Agapito...no Agabus...

Agabus...I don't know that I'd really ever heard the name Agabus ‘til this past week reading the scripture we’re looking at this morning. 
I've even done the whole bible in a year thing.
I guess, the name Agabus had never really stood out...
nor his role in the formation of the early Christian community.
But it did this week:

Back when the church was not a building....
there was Agabus the prophet.

Let's see what he's up to...SCRIPTURE

The early community of Jesus followers,
as we've seen in this summer series on Acts, has been in the process of discovering who they are:
- A people with a particular calling - following Jesus and sharing his message,
- led by the Holy Spirit they find they are being pushed beyond the bounds of what they thought this mission was about. 

I wonder why this theme of pushing the disciples out beyond their comfort zones happens over and over again in Acts? 

I mean first, in Acts 2, they’re hidden up in closed room until the Holy Spirit pushes them out of their comfort zone to speak among the multitude of Jewish people gathered in Jerusalem...the day of Pentecost
Get out of your comfort zone, says the spirit and care.

Then there’s the whole debate about what to do with the Hellenists--Jews who speak greek, not Arameic...
what accents!
“I guess we should take care of their underserved widows...
Deacons are appointed in Acts 6
Get out of your comfort zone, says the spirit and care.

Still, we’re okay, because we’re just doing ministry among our own people...
Jesus gave us clear instructions: only go among the Jews (Mt 10:5).
Non-Jews eat strange things...not kosher. 
And we would be unclean by our own people for hanging out with non-Jews.

But, Houston, there’s a problem:
Even by following the religious code...
our own people aren’t really taking too kindly to us.
Not really buying into the Jesus = Messiah thing,
we’re being kicked out of our own churches (synagogues).

And, Houston, there’s another problem: 

some of our Jesus Jewish people are having these strange encounters with Gentiles

Philip and the Ethiopian (foreign) a Eunuch (Defiled)
Get out of your comfort zone, says the spirit, and care

Peter and Cornelius (foreigner)...
“Who was I to think, that I could oppose God?”
said Peter-- somewhat sheepishly?-- to his fellow Jewish believers when he told them the story.

The Holy Spirit’s pushing, moving, and shaking the believers out of their comfort zones to care! 

But it’s not just violating the purity codes,
which the Jewish Jesus followers had abided by faithfully their whole lives.

There was also this whole persecution thing..
- Saul leading the persecution against the early followers....

- The believers scattered after Steven's horrific death - stoned.

We’re reminded of that aspect of the early believer’s reality in our passage from today. 

 Word about Jesus has travelled all over the Roman empire...the Jews who were at Pentecost apparently had effectively taken the message back to their home towns.

One town was Antioch -  400 miles from the center of the movement, Jerusalem. 

This community sought to be faithful,
but they sometimes did things their own way, not knowing there was anything wrong with it...
and sometimes they were late in getting the word about new developments in the movement.

Evidently, the church in antioch hadn’t heard the story yet about Peter and Cornelius..

So when these trouble makers--
a mariner from Cyrene (in Tunisia) and an islander from Cyprus,
start sharing Jesus’ message with Greeks, non-Jews...uhh ohh. #

The folks in the church get really worried. 
Houston, there’s a problem:
the church pot-lucks
It all comes back to the pot-luck. 
The gentiles probably had some good cooks. 
And there’s the whole Kosher thing..

This is why Peter's vision was a little bizarre and gruesome
He was told to get up and eat animals that weren’t Kosher. 
But, God, nooooo!

Factions develop within the community.


Pious Jewish Christians who refused to eat what the gentiles brought to the pot-lucks.
And rabble rouser Jewish Christians from Cyrene who just smacked their lips as they ate that finger-lickin good fried-chicken. 

Can you picture the church meeting...
“What do you mean you’re sharing Jesus with the Greeks!” said the pious Jew. 

“Well, I was just hanging out at the farmer’s market,
and thought it would be cool to tell some guys standing there about how Jesus changed my life.”
Responded the cyprian.

“Well, Jesus himself told us not too...remember! 
Probably not, you’re from Cyprus...” 

oh boy..

“Look, They’ve accepted Jesus as Lord. That says something doesn’t it?” argued the Cyprian.

“I don’t care if they believe in Jesus or not! …
Now they're coming to our pot-lucks and do you see the food they’re bringing! 
It smells sooo good...Lead me not into temptation!
 You’re going to get us in trouble.”

So they had to send off for someone from the Committee on Ministry in Jerusalem...

Church hierarchy, ecclesiastical authority...already sneaking its way into the church---

“Thank goodness...it's gentle joyful Barnabas...the Encourager...
reminds me of jolly ole st nick.”
He just laughs over the whole situation...
“boys boys....it's okay...
The news of Peter and Cornelius hasn’t traveled here yet?

Let me tell you a story...

...And so we've been eating with the Gentiles ever since...and boy can they cook.
Imagine all those years of missing out....because we thought we were being faithful...
We’re making up for it...now, do you see my wasteline?!


“But, But!” say the pious Jesus Jews....
 
“Okay Okay...just to be sure..I'm going to stay with you for a year, and we can talk about it some more!
That will give me plenty of time to try out the food of the folks from this region...”
 
“But, But!” say the pious Jesus Jews....

“Lighten up...don't take yourselves so seriously fellas..
Jesus loves you, this I know...

“But, if you insist, I'll go fetch Saul...
we call him Paul now--kind of made a bad name for himself as “Saul.” 
“Paul” helps smooth things over a bit.”
 
And that's the way it went...
During that time in Antioch...
a committee formed and came up with a name for the group...
they weren't really Jews or gentiles anymore.
Who are we? 
Christians. #

What are we about?
Rules?
Limits?
Dogma?
Orthodoxy? 
Judgment?
Fire and brimstone?
   
Luke doesn't spend much time talking about committee meetings.

Instead, what was important for Luke, when it came to what the early christians were about...
A man named Agabus shows up on the scene with some other prophets.

Agabus! What a name!

And he tells them about the famine. 
He's called a prophet!
Agabus, prophet,
Was he identified as a prophet because he foretold the future?
Or was it because he called them into action! 

What was the message from the prophet that stirred the Spirit within them and compelled them to do something?

They hear word of the famine...people will starve and there will be great suffering
What do they do? 

We will give what we have...and send it to those who have great needs.
How terrible to encounter and endure such suffering.

Luke tells of when the early church was first called Christians in the light of a story of those people responding to a need in the world.

Not bad!  Give those first Christians in Antioch a hand!

But, Houston, there's one little problem.

Did you notice who were to be the recipients of the offerings of the christians in Antioch?
“Believers”

Does this mean that we should only be doing outreach and giving aid to fellow believers?
Only fellow believers who are in need should be the recipients of our benevolence?
It’s in the bible...that’s what the early church did?

Or has the Holy Spirit continued to push us out of our comfort zones...beyond what we initially thought was right, into a whole new way of seeing the world...and care.

The bible still speaks, and so does the Holy Spirit..

The holy spirit speaks to us in our hearts when we quiet ourselves and listen...

what does the rule of love tell us?

all the controversial issues that are damningly politicized,
and we Christians are stuck about how we should respond...

what does the rule of love tell us?

If people are starving...should we only feed some and not others? 

Of course not. 

Agabus came and said there would be a terrible famine...
He probably led the organizing of a relief effort...
how else did he get his name in the bible...even if everyone ignores it.
Agamemnon...Agapito....really?
Give the man his props!

Agabus the prophet brought a message helping those first called Christians to discover what they were all about. 

I love prophets because they get us off our fannies and encourage us to take part in God's vision for the world. 

And I love hearing about the prophets of today.

And I want to close with a short story of someone I believe is one...

I heard a story this week about a 10 year old girl, Mia Hansen, who loves smoothies!  
...especially smoothies from a store called Jamba Juice.

But, Houston, she ran into a problem, she learned about the harmful effects of Styrofoam on the environment and Jamba Juice served their smoothies in Styrofoam

Here’s what she said about it.

I'm 10 years old and when I was at Jamba Juice a couple of weeks ago, I ordered a smoothie and they gave it to me in a styrofoam cup!
The person behind me ordered yogurt and they gave her yogurt in a styrofoam container, too. That's just ridiculous.
It bothered me so much, my mom encouraged me to start a petition.
Styrofoam takes so long to break down into the Earth.
In the ocean, several animals think that this product is food, so when they go to eat it, the styrofoam can kill them!
Also, did you know 57 chemical by-products are released during the creation of styrofoam? That is a lot of chemicals to safely dispose.
Jamba Juice does not use styrofoam cups in some cities where the city doesn't allow it, like Seattle.
If they do that there, they can do it everywhere!

Mia started a petition on Change.org,
more than 130,000 people signed

Mia says,
"Thank you all so much for signing my petition to get rid of Styrofoam at Jamba Juice and for your meaningful comments.
It made me feel like anyone of any age in any country can really make a difference in the world.
Jamba Juice responded to me within three weeks of starting this petition!
I spoke with them on the phone and they just sent me a letter that says very clearly that they will not have polystyrene cups in any of their stores by the end of 2013.
Can you believe it??!!! Thanks, again, guys!!!"

Agabus told the early community of Jesus followers about destruction that would cause great suffering.

How often do we hear of the terrible destruction taking place on our planet in so many forms. 

A 10 year old girl felt like she needed to do something about it. 

Who are the Agabuses in our communities....?
The holy spirit may be calling us to hop on the agabus.

Who are the agabuses sitting here today?

Holy Spirit, stir in our hearts, stop our destructive divisive ways,
teach us to care and
give us strength to help end suffering and oppression in this world.

May they know we are christians by our love...

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