a family of faith
seeking to boldly proclaim Jesus Christ
by loving God and serving our neighbors.

Switched On?

As a Michigan fan, I’m not supposed to like Peyton Manning. The guy almost stole my boy Charles Woodson’s Heisman trophy. But I gotta admit, I’ve always found him likeable. And who wouldn’t? The five-time MVP is one of only two quarterbacks to beat every team in the NFL He’s the only quarterback to win Super Bowls with two teams, and he holds records for most career touchdown passes (539), most passing yards (71,940), most touchdowns in a season (55), most passing yards in a season (5,477), most wins (200) and most games with 300 or more yards passing (93), just to name a few. When Peyton Manning announced his retirement a few short months ago, he turned down a $19 million salary.  And even though he’d sat out much of the previous season, he arguably had a few good passes left in him. There’s been some good DirectTV commercials that show Peyton waddling around on Sunday in a bathrobe with nothing to do. You’re one of the greats. So, why leave?
When I read Acts 1, I can’t help but ask, Jesus, why leave? The story of the Ascension of Jesus, is in no other gospel. And to be honest, the Ascension story, the story of Jesus leaving us down here, has never been one of my favorites. Why did Jesus have to leave? Christ had completed his mission on earth. He had come down from heaven—God in human flesh! Never before in human history! He had taught, preached sermons so amazing, so eloquent, reinterpreting the law in a way completely revolutionary. I mean, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He could have stopped there! But not only that, He had healed the sick, performed more miracles than any prophet in history. And finally, He had revealed God’s love to us fully and completely. He had taken on the burden of our sin and death and broke the power of hell by dying on the cross. But just to seal his MVP Messiah award, Jesus had risen from the dead and revealed to all of us the power of God, that life wins, that love conquers all. I mean, Jesus was at the top of his game. He wasn’t just one of the greats, he was the Greatest Story Ever Told. So, why leave? Why retire?
To be honest, it makes me question the reality of the whole story at all. When the disciples say, Jesus rose from the dead, they must be faced with the question, well, why isn’t he with you? Why doesn’t he tell us himself how great he is? “He ascended into heaven” feels like something of a convenient answer.
This whole period, after Jesus rose from the dead, is one we don’t think about very much. At least I don’t. Jesus was here, on earth, after rising from the dead for forty days and forty nights. Think of that! People saw him, touched him, ate with him, spent time with him for forty days and forty nights. It must have been so amazing, so unreal. The most amazing time in their lives. And then, just like that, he’s gone.
And they’re left sitting there, thinking about it, wondering, did it really happen? What does it mean? When is he coming back? Tomorrow? The next day? In a week?
And most importantly, What do we do now?
There were ten days between when Jesus left and Pentecost.
Ten days that the disciples don’t know what to do.
The angels had to tell them to leave, to quit looking up at heaven, and go down to earth. And so, they go. They go back to Jerusalem, where Jesus told them to go, and they wait.
They do some housekeeping; elect a new disciple to take the place of Judas. They’re in a way, looking backward, thinking that there have to be 12 apostles and 12 alone. They wait. They watch. They pray.
And then God flips the switch. And everything changes.
A few weeks ago we had a major crisis in my house. We lost the TV remote.
I am old enough to remember that you used to be able to actually physically walk to a TV, turn it on, and change the channels right there, with an actual dial.
Now, they don’t spend the extra twenty cents, or whatever it costs, to even put dials or buttons on the TV screen. It’s all in the remote.
I looked everywhere, under the couches, in the toybox, between the cushions. I cleaned areas of our family room that haven’t been touched in years. I uncovered lost Cheerios and sippy cups growing what surely must have been new species of bacteria. Finally, after three days, we found the remote, in our dog Rosie’s kennel under a blanket, of all places. We had Elmo, Mickey, and Thomas again. The family could be at peace.
Because without the remote, the TV is worthless. The wires are there, the fancy HD screen, the cable bill has been all paid up, but unless you can turn it on, it’s just a big black box in the middle of the room.
Are you living your life turned on?
Because God wired you for something. God manufactured you with a purpose in mind. God prepared you for a purpose, for a divine destiny.
Looking at this passage, I thought about how God prepared Peter for the work he had to do. Peter really resonates with me, because he’s such a contradiction. He’s faithful, and yet he’s fearful. He’s the only one who walked on water toward Jesus—and he sank along the way. He’s the only one who proclaimed Jesus Messiah—and yet he denied him not once, not twice, but three times. He’s faithful and fearful, courageous one minute and a coward the next. In short, he’s me and you.
Peter’s life prepared him perfectly to do the work God meant for him because God didn’t want perfect. He wanted someone who could relate to everyone. He wanted someone he could turn on and turn out and transform. Peter demonstrated to everyone the power of Christ’s resurrection. Listen to him preach in Acts 2: over and over Peter says surely, certainly, absolutely Jesus raised from the dead. Peter has learned what it means to overcome his doubt and speak with a resurrection faith. And that is the most powerful witness of all. Later we will see that God hard-wired Peter to understand grace and forgiveness, preparing Peter for the grace of Jesus not just to go to the Jews but to all the world. Only because Peter had experienced Christ’s forgiveness firsthand could he truly comprehend what grace meant. All the hard wiring was there.
In the same way, God prepared you to tell a message, to share a story, to do something only you can do. The events of your life and the way you are made give you a purpose, a calling no one else can fulfill.
The Spirit has been working in your life for a long time. Many people don’t realize that in Scripture, the Holy Spirit is working long before someone even accepts Christ. The Scripture sometimes describes the Spirit as resting upon people, or preparing people, long before Acts 2. Even in John 20, Jesus breathes on the disciples and says, “receive the Holy Spirit.” In our Presbyterian tradition, we believe that the Holy Spirit works even in unbelievers, giving them a sense of right and wrong, preparing them even before they accept Christ. And after you become a believer, some of us ignore the Spirit, or try to quench the Spirit. We don’t let Him set us on fire; we don’t let ourselves get carried away by Her wind.
But we were meant to be carried away with our love for God. We were meant to be burning with passion for Christ. Just like Dan hooked up our TV, not just for fun, but to do something, God did all the set up, hooked you up with all the biblical knowledge, put all your wires and connections in the right place; in Christ Jesus, God even paid your bill in full—but it doesn’t mean a thing if you aren’t switched on.
Here’s my question to you: are your ten days up yet?
Have you had enough watching and waiting, praying and preparing?
Because once those ten days are up, it’s time to do something.
How did God wire you? What is the story you have to tell? What is the work you have to do? And what are you and I waiting for?
Chuck Colson lived most of his life indifferent to God. He was an Episcopalian in name, but he didn’t know the stories of the Bible, had never heard of the Prodigal Son. He believed in America, and in the free market, and in Richard Nixon. In fact, he once said in an interview that he’d run over his grandmother for the President. And he did just about that. He was a successful politician, one of Nixon’s top aides. In 1972, he was convicted for crimes against the United States, for obstructing justice in the Watergate scandal.
It looked like what should have been a promising political career was over. It looked like his story was through. His hero had abandoned him. He was alone.
Except that someone thought, at this moment, when all his cards were down, someone thought to tell Charles Colson about grace. And forgiveness. And second chances.
Someone told him about Jesus.
And Chuck Colson switched on.
He said publicly that he had accepted Christ. Many evangelical Christians were wary. Then he pled guilty and went to federal prison.
Where he preached.
Where he led others to the Lord.
Where he witnessed deplorable prison conditions.
Where he became passionate about social justice.
Chuck Colson became the founder of the Prison Fellowship, which is the largest Christian ministry in prisons today, and has led millions of inmates to Christ.
He also entered political life again, to advocate for prison and criminal justice reform, and was a key force behind the Prison Rape Elimination Act, passed in 2003, when Colson was 71.
His whole life hard-wired him to do God’s work in a way no one else could do.
Is there someone who desperately needs you to do the work that no one else can do?
Is there someone who desperately needs you to do that thing you’ve been putting off, maybe not even for ten days, but for ten years?
Will someone tell your story someday? The story of the day you got carried away? The story of the day you were switched on?
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

2 Comments

  1. Susan Smith, AKA Minga

    God takes us to a place where we absolutely CANNOT make it without calling out to Him for help. I am trying to be there for those He places in my path who are at rock bottom. And to be an encouragement to all. Trying to lift every soul I meet in some small way. And to guide the next generation. I know I often fall far short…but I keep on keeping on. I hope and pray to make the mark more and more. To live the life He sent me to live.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *