날짜: 2018년 10월 14일
제목: 어찌하여 서서 하늘을 쳐다보느냐?
올리브연합감리교회 김배선 목사
20181014 Sunday Worship Sermon
Acts 1:6-11 (“Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”)
A few months ago, when I was at home alone, someone knocked on my door.
As I opened the door, a middle aged man was standing there.
He introduced himself as a member some church.
He asked me if I believe in Jesus and if I go to a church.
So, I said I do and I introduced myself, and shared that I am a pastor of Olive UMC.
He looked a little puzzled and asked me “what is it?”
I repeated I am a pastor and I am serving the Olive church, here in Wahiawa.
I was just about to say how much I appreciate him for doing such an active evangelism.
He said “Oh, you are a pastor… Then let me ask you something”
He asked, “Do you teach the way to go to heaven to your congregation?”
Actually, it was not my first time to face that kind of question, but it has been a while since I was asked such a question.
So, when he asked, “Do you teach the way to heaven to your congregation?” my first reaction was “What?”
He noticed that I seemed a little puzzled so he repeated his question, “Do you teach the way to heaven to your congregation?”
I answered, “yes, of course.”
Then he asked me back, “what is it?” “What’s the way to heaven?”
I was a little hesitant.
Then, watching me little confused, he decided to answer to his own question quoting some Bible verses.
I did not exactly remember which Bible verse he mentioned, but the point he tried to make was Jesus Christ is the way to heaven and I, as a pastor, need to teach that to my congregation.
And at the end of his self-answering, he added “Going to heaven is all about the Christian faith.”
Then, he gave me a booklet of the Bible program of his church and he emphasized that his church is teaching nothing but the Bible, only Bible.
Saying Good bye and closing the door after him, I felt uncomfortable.
He and I, we talked about Jesus, we talk about Christian faith, but I felt like we talked about something unpleasant.
I was a little upset.
And the question he asked, “Do you teach the way to go to heaven to your congregation?” remained in my thoughts.
Have you ever been in this situation, where the person you talked to is gone, but what he or she said keeps echoing in your head?
“Do you teach the way to go to the heaven to your congregation?” And “Going to heaven is all about the Christian faith.”
What do you think?
Do you think I teach the way to go to heaven to you?
And what do you think of his second statement, the Christian faith is all about going to heaven?
Well, I don’t have any intention to discourage those who want to go to heaven and I believe going to heaven is important in our faith.
I want to go to heaven, too.
The Lord promised us the land of promise when this world is over, but the Christian faith, faith that you and I have is all about going to heaven?
I know I need to think about it more.
Today’s Scripture reading is a scene of Jesus’ ascension.
While I was meditating on today’s text, I came to focus on one verse, verse 11,
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” (verse 11)
“Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”
Here is the story.
Jesus has just risen from the dead.
It was surprise.
At the first moment when the disciples knew that Jesus has risen from the dead, they didn’t believe it.
But when the risen Jesus appeared to many people, the disciples accepted that Jesus is risen again and believed in him again.
And in today’s scene, all of them, all of 11 disciples, gathered with the risen Jesus.
I want you to imagine the mood of that gathering.
Jesus died on the cross by Roman soldiers and Jewish religious leaders.
But he rose again from the dead and called all the disciples to one place.
Can you feel that excitement?
This is the last moment of a long journey for Jesus and his disciples.
They went through hardships and death, and this is the final moment of their journey.
In this last moment, the disciples were all excited for that something should be made finally.
So they asked in verse 6,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?”
What they were saying is this,
“Lord, this is the moment we are all waiting for! Show us the great Kingdom of God that you promised us! Show us the greatest Kingdom that you talked about right now and right here!”
Watching that excitement among the disciples, Jesus said,
“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” (verse 7)
Basically Jesus said, it is not your business to know when the Kingdom of God will be restored perfectly.
But, in verse 8, Jesus said,
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Here, again, we can see what the disciples are looking for is totally different than what Jesus intended to teach.
Disciples demanded the visible realization of Kingdom right now and right here.
But Jesus is talking about being a witness of faith to all the nations.
Furthermore, after saying a few words about being a witness, Jesus suddenly ascended into heaven.
Just like a dad who hangs up the phone when he finished what he wanted to say, Jesus left them without any explanation upon being a witness.
And verse 10 says “they were looking intently up into the sky.”
The King James Version said “they looked steadfastly toward the sky.”
What is happening here?
What’s happening to those disciples?
They might be stunned by how this journey of Jesus ends.
They expected the ending should be different.
It should be either Jesus taking all the disciple along with him or Jesus bringing down all the heavenly power from the heaven down to the earth.
As I read this verse, I could sense the confusion in the disciples’ head.
Looking up to the sky where Jesus is not visible anymore, they thought it should not be an end.
They might be thinking there will be more, or there should be more.
Brothers and sisters, if the goal of all Christian faith is going to heaven, Jesus should have taken all his disciples right at that moment.
If following Jesus is all about getting a ticket to heaven, when Jesus was lifted up to heaven, all his disciples should have been lifted along with Jesus.
If going to heaven is all about the Christian faith, it could make more sense to end the New Testament right there at Acts chapter 1.
If the New Testament ends with the glorious ascension of all the disciples along with Jesus, that makes a perfect sense, going to heaven is all about the Christian faith.
But, the New Testament does not stop there.
To the disciples who were looking upward to the sky, two men dressed in white stood beside them and said to them,
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (verse 11)
“Why do you still stand here looking into the sky… “
What does it mean?
“Do not stand there looking up the sky waiting for the moment when you are lifted up. You remember what your Lord said! Be a witness of Christ Jesus. Share the Gospel, share the Good News that Jesus Christ proclaim with all his strength. Be a witness of Christ, be a witness of faith to your neighbor. Till the same Jesus return to the very earth, be a witness to each other, be a witness for all nations. Do not just stand there, be a witness of Christ.”
Brothers and sisters, the New Testament does not stop at Acts 1.
From Acts 1, the stories continue.
And the stories are all about the First Christians who chose to boldly be a witness of faith to the nations.
Going to heaven is an important thing.
But being a witness has the same degree of importance.
If you understand Christian faith as only getting a ticket to go to heaven after death, you have to think again.
We will enter the kingdom of heaven that Jesus prepared for us when our life on this earth is over, but the goal of our Christian faith cannot be only to get that ticket.
We are called to bring down the Kingdom of God here and now.
Being a witness, being a disciple, being a follower of Christ, we are called to grow the Kingdom of God which is hidden among us just like a little mustard seed.
Till the day that the same Jesus returns, what we are called is to be a witness of Christ.
If you are standing there looking into the sky, stop.
Now is the time to turn our eyes to our neighbor and be diligent in being a witness of Christ Jesus.
In Acts chapter 9, there is a story of a woman whose name was Tabitha, in Greek, Dorcas.
Bible tells us that she is always doing good and helping the poor.
Being a widow herself, Dorcas was a devoted Christian serving others all the time.
But, one day, she died.
And people around her washed her body and put her body in the attic.
Being so sad by her death, the people around Dorcas invited Apostle Peter into their town and asked him to pray for the return of Dorcas.
And the Bible tells us that Peter prayed so hard for the return of Dorcas and she was risen from the death.
Her return from the dead became a witness to many people in that town of Joppa, and that day many became Christians.
As I meditated on this story, I had a chance to think how Dorcas herself felt about her return to earth.
You know, Dorcas was a widow.
In ancient society, it is unimaginably hard for a widow to live alone.
That’s the reason why early Christian community put first priority to help a widow first in Book of Acts.
Dorcas was poor. No husband, no family.
And I can imagine that all of her hope was in heaven.
There is no joy for her in this world.
But when she died and realized that she was going to heaven.
I thought she loved it.
Let’s imagine this.
After all the agonies and suffering living as widow in this world, now Dorcas was about to enter the heavenly place where the Lord Jesus is King.
After the short pain, the grandeur of heaven is right before her eyes and she walked through the road paved with gold and she was amazed by the beautiful songs that angels sing.
Now she was about to open the heavenly gate and she could see the Lord waiting for her right there.
But, at that very moment, an angel blocked her and said,
“Dorcas, I am sorry you have to go back.”
“Why” Dorcas might ask.
“The prayer of Peter was so strong and you have to go back.”
Was Dorcas pleased with her return?
Heaven is the most pleasing place for her.
In heaven, there are no worries, no stress, no loneliness…
But, Dorcas has to go back to this world.
Why? Because she needed to be a witness one more time.
Acts 9: 42 says,
“This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.”
Thinking of Dorcas herself, staying in heaven might be better.
But for the Kingdom of God, for the life that have not heard the precious message of salvation, Dorcas needs to be back.
Because being a witness is such a blessed thing to do, because being a witness is such a great thing to do.
It is more than going to heaven alone, it is more than enjoying heavenly life in the heaven after all.
Today, where are your places that you need to be a witness of Jesus?
I want you to be a witness of love and mercy that Christ Jesus has shown to you anywhere there.
Please be a witness of faith to your family.
Why don’t you be a witness of love to your children, parents and relatives?
How about being a witness at your work place?
I pray that all of you could hear that your co-workers say, “because of you, our work place becomes a better and brighter place to be”
I want you to be a witness of Jesus where you live.
Brothers and sisters, if you are witnessing faith and love to your family and neighbor, you are already in heaven.
The Kingdom of God is already restored in you and in your community.
We are going to experience the joy of the Kingdom of God here and now.
And those who experience the joy of the Kingdom of God here and now, I am sure that our Lord prepares an unimaginable and indescribable Joy in eternal life. Amen.