Let Yourself Be Pushed

We had a wonderful morning at RCC!  Our annual clean-up day was after church and we got SO much done – inside and out!  I was reading Real Good Church last year and Molly talked about their clean-up day at church (which I think they do twice a year) and we’ve based our day on that model.  This year we made a list of jobs ahead of time and tried to assign captains to each area so more than one person knew what was going on.  In years past, we’ve only really focused on the outside, but we tried to change that this year for a few reasons …

  1. You really don’t need THAT many people mulching.  We hire a crew to come in and prep everything ahead of time, so the mulching itself doesn’t take that long.
  2. Some of the older folks want to help, but don’t want to work outside.
  3. There are certain things that never get done – like scrubbing the fridge or taking a magic eraser to the marks on the wall – that can get knocked out in an hour if there are enough people helping!
  4. We want to have more jobs so it will encourage more people to stay – I love the fellowship aspect to it!

Anyway … here is this morning’s sermon!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
May 1, 2016

Act 16:9-15

Let Yourself Be Pushed

Last summer, a friend of mine and I somehow convinced ourselves that it was a good idea for us to, once a week, meet at 5:30 in the morning to go running. Now, this was probably not one of the smartest things we have ever done, and I say this for two reasons: 1. I am not a morning person and 2. I am REALLY not a morning person. Actually, it kind of became a running joke with us that neither one of us actually wanted to be there. In fact, one morning when we were supposed to meet, I heard my phone go off a little after 5:00AM and I said to myself, “Oh, I really hope Kaylee is canceling today so I can go back to sleep.” I opened the text and it said, “Are we still on for this morning?”

Here is something that you should know about me. I may hate mornings, but I am also very stubborn and very proud when it comes to stuff like this. So as much as I did not want to get out of bed that morning, I also did not want to be the reason that I was not getting out of bed.

So I responded with an enthusiastic, “Yup! See you soon!” and got out of bed.

When I arrived at the track 20 minutes later, Kaylee got out of her car, sighed and said, “I was really hoping you were going to respond and tell me that you didn’t want to run today so I could go back to sleep.”

Sometimes we all need a little push to do something, don’t we?

In fact, we just heard a story about someone who got a little push to do something. And we saw how God was working in their midst while it happened.

This morning’s scripture reading is from the Book of Acts, or Acts of the Apostles. Acts is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke; it is filled with stories of the very early church, a narrative of how the Christian movement spread in the time immediately following the resurrection. In the story that we just heard, Paul – who, earlier in the book, had felt a push and experienced a significant transformation in his own life – was sleeping and had a vision. In that vision, a man came to Paul and begged him to travel to the man’s city of Macedonia to help him.

So Paul and a group of others made the journey to Macedonia. When they arrived, they met a woman name Lydia. Lydia listened to what Paul and the disciples who traveled with him were saying, allowed God to open her heart and was baptized.

This is how the Christian movement was spread. Christianity would not exist the way that it does today if people like Paul had not followed those little pushes that they felt to share God’s message with the world. The Christian movement would not have been able to spread so widely if people like the men and women who travelled with Paul had not felt a push and been willing to leave the comforts of their lives to share the Gospel with others. The Christian faith would not have infused so many lives if people like Lydia had not felt a push and gone to listen intently to what missionaries were saying, opening themselves up to be changed by their message.

Sometimes we all need a little push to do something and this scripture teaches us that the Gospel is that push that we all so desperately need. The Gospel requires action and God needs us to act; God needs us to share God’s message of hope, love, light, acceptance and reconciliation. God needs us to help others cling to their faith. God needs us to go outside of our comfort zones, to shine light in the midst of darkness and to proclaim that bold and radical truth that God’s love always wins. God needs us to spread the Gospel with our words and with our actions.

This is not always an easy thing to do; at times, it will require a lot of us. Like Paul and the men and women who traveled with him to Macedonia, we have to be willing to move. We may have to change our routines, try something different or go to a new place. Sometimes we may have to be a follower; we may not always get to do things the way that we want to do them.

Like Lydia, we have to be willing to listen. In today’s world – where we have access to a virtual platform at our fingertips to say what is on our mind at all times – it is hard to listen, but sometimes, first and foremost, God needs us to listen to what others are saying. Just as Paul spread the Gospel by speaking, Lydia also spread the Gospel by listening.

Like Paul, like Lydia and like so many others, we have to be willing to be changed.

Moving, listening, changing: We have to follow these pushes that we feel. This is where grace begins.

There is a first-person plural voice in this story that is somewhat noteworthy to pay attention to.

When [Paul] had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that Paul had called us to proclaim the good news to them. We set sail … We remained in [Macedonia] for some days. On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river … we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there … Lydia … was listening to us … She urged us.

We – us – we – us; proclaiming the Good News was not solely Paul’s responsibility, it was also the responsibility of the men and women who were traveling with him, who wrote this narrative, who desperately wanted others to be changed by God the same way that they were.

As we read this scripture, I think it is imperative that we put ourselves into the narrative; that we become the “we” and the “us”. We need to spread God’s love in this world; this is as much our responsibility as it was Paul’s. God is pushing us to do amazing things in our lives and we have to let ourselves be pushed. We have to open our eyes to see the possibilities that are out there when we let ourselves be pushed by God. We have to be willing to take action – and to take risks. We have to stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zones, stop comparing ourselves to others and trust that God is better at working out the details than we are.

We can talk about our faith, pray for others and let them know that we are praying for them. We can bring meals to people who are going through a difficult time, send someone a card just to let them know we are thinking about them or bring a prayer shawl to a person who needs a tangible reminder that they are loved and protected. We can demand justice and practice reconciliation. We can get involved in our church community and give back when we are able. We can talk to others about our faith and encourage them to explore theirs. The possibilities are endless – and so is grace.

It is time; it is time to see what God is calling us to do and how we can continue to write this Christian story. It is time to let ourselves be pushed. In ways both large and small, we can spread God’s love in this world. We can be both authentic versions of ourselves and also Disciples of Christ. We can allow God to take the journey that we are on and make it sacred and holy.

So let yourself be pushed.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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