Monday, April 4, 2016

“Noisy Faith” (Acts 5:27-32 and Psalm 150)

Charles Stanley wrote: “There is only one secure foundation: a genuine, deep relationship with Jesus Christ, which will carry you through any and all turmoil.  No matter what storms are raging all around, you’ll stand firm if you stand on His love.”

Again, this second Sunday of Easter, I push away from the traditional stories of the season . . . away from the stories of the encounters with the risen Jesus.  Those are the familiar stories . . . the background stories . . . of the whole purpose and reason of the Easter season—that Jesus is alive!  We know those stories of Easter, but what we also need to know is how that Easter story embedded itself in the hearts of those who were Jesus’ followers and has given us the opportunity today to continue our Easter celebration.  We must hear those stories of the early witnesses . . . those who kept the story alive . . . those who kept Jesus alive.

So, we are a little further down the road beyond the resurrection stories.  We are beyond the point of the gift of the Spirit and the day of Pentecost.  The once fearful and hidden followers of Jesus have witnessed the risen Jesus . . . they have received the Spirit . . . and, they have gone out into their world to share the “good news”.  They are out there preaching and teaching the “good news” as it was shared by Jesus himself.  They are out among the people filled with enthusiasm and joy.  They are witnessing . . . sharing the story . . . and, the people are listening.  The people are beginning to believe . . . to become followers of Jesus and his ways.  It is an exciting time.

But, not everyone is excited.  No, there is still that old group of Jesus nemeses’ . . . those religious and politically powerful people who had sought to end Jesus and his movement . . . those who rejoiced in Jesus’ crucifixion and death . . . those who thought that it was all over.  This group does not rejoice in what they are witnessing as the followers of Jesus are growing stronger and stronger each day.  This makes them uncomfortable . . . makes them anxious . . . brings back flashbacks of another time and challenge to the way that things had always been.  This movement was intolerable.

As the powerful often believe, this group decided that the time had come to end it all once and for all.

The followers were arrested . . . they were thrown in jail.  The powerful were throwing down the gauntlet.  But during the night an angel set them free, tells them to go to the temple and preach, and when the day breaks they do as they are told.  Those in power call for the prisoners to be brought to them only to discover that they had been set free and were sharing the “good news” in the temple.  This only made them angrier and they had the followers arrested again.  The arrested were dragged before the Sanhedrin—the highest religious and political court of the Jews.  There the court reminded the followers that they were warned not to teach and preach in the name of Jesus . . . to not propagate the story among the people.  In doing this they were making the status quo . . . those in power . . . look bad.  These guys were fuming.

Peter, who once was the wispiest and whiniest of Jesus’ followers—the biggest flip-flopper of Jesus’ followers—stands before the most powerful court of his time and tells them: “We must obey God rather than men . . . we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”  Basically this once wimpy follower of Jesus tells those in power . . . those in control . . . that the followers were not going to stop telling the story . . . they were not going to stop telling the story because they were living for a higher cause . . . they were living for the will of God.  Nothing was going to stop them . . . nothing.

Now, of course, one should not look in the face of those in power and tell them off.  The consequences of such actions can be quite dire.  The Sanhedrin was not happy with Peter’s response to their warning . . . actually, they were quite ticked off.  Quickly there was a call to put the followers of Jesus to death . . . but, a Pharisee named Gamaliel speaks to spare their lives.  He suggests that they be flogged . . . taught a lesson . . . and, be released.  That will teach them.  Besides, what harm were these scattered followers of Jesus . . . if it is God’s will then they will succeed and there is nothing anyone can to stop them . . . if they are off on some scheme and new direction that has nothing to do with the will of God; well, they will eventually disappear.  Thus the followers are spared.

Gamaliel’s gamble did not work.  The followers went back out and started right where they had left off . . . they preached and taught the “good news” of Jesus . . . shared the Easter story.  They continued to make noise . . . joyful noise in the face of danger and possible death.

And, we . . . as this generation’s followers of Jesus . . . are called to go and do likewise.  We are called to a noisy faith . . . after all, we have reason to be loud and joyful . . . we have a living Savior.  And, because we have a living Savior we have a foundation . . . a genuine and deep relationship with Jesus that will carry us through any and all turmoil.  No matter what is thrown at us we can stand firm in our faith . . . we can share our faith . . . because we stand on Jesus’ love.

We are to be a people of noisy faith.  As an Easter people we are a noisy people.

Now, our other reading of scripture this morning . . . Psalm 150.  This is definitely a praise psalm.  It is also the last psalm in the Book of Psalms . . . the climax of the whole book.  Basically it calls for the faithful to praise God for all that God represents and has done.  It calls for that praise to be loud . . . to be noisy.  It calls for blaring trumpets, harps and lyres, shaking tambourines, flutes, strings, clashing cymbals . . . dancing.  Lots of dancing, laughter, and noise.  And, this noise does not have to be organized noise . . . not beautiful like a hymn or praise song . . . it is supposed to be pure, chaotic, joyful, ecstatic noise.  It calls for the faithful to “let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord.”  In other words, the psalmist tells the faithful that they need to let it all hang out . . . get a little noisy about one’s faith.

In several of the churches that I have served over the years they have held what were called “Psalm 150” services.  These services were opportunities for any one and every one to offer their praise to God in whatever form they wanted.  Mostly it was singing . . . and, not always good singing . . . after all, the emphasis is on making a “joyful noise unto the Lord.”  Yeah, they even allowed me to sing if I wanted to . . . no one wanted to go against the scriptures.

As the followers of Jesus stood before the powerful court of the Sanhedrin . . . these followers who in those days between the death and resurrection seemed to broken, scattered, lost, and defeated . . . as they stood before this powerful court who could crush them with a single word . . . they chose to make a noise.  The story could not be contained . . . could not be crushed . . . no, because it was and still is the greatest story ever told.  They refused to be silent.  They would do the will of God . . . they would share the “good news”.

At the end of the story the followers who had been arrested . . . the followers who had been flogged . . . left the court . . . rejoicing . . . making noise.  The echo of that noise reverberates today in the hearts and souls of those of us who are gathered.  It is our jobs . . . our calls . . . to do the will of God as demonstrated in Jesus.  We are to be a people of noisy faith.  There is nothing to fear because we have a secure foundation that is based on a genuine, deep relationship with Jesus himself . . . based on his love for us.  When we are standing in his love . . . when we are doing the will of God . . . nothing can defeat us.  We are to be a noisy people of faith.  Amen.

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