April 30, 2017
Sermon: “The Power of Positive Passion”, Rev. Steve Anderson
Acts 16:6-10 & 12b-15
Have you ever felt that God was calling you to do something and yet there was one roadblock after another in your way? You’d think that if God wanted you to accomplish something that you would get a police escort and a hero’s welcome along the way. In today’s scripture we find Paul entering the town of Phillipi to tell the Jews there that the long awaited messiah had come.
The first problem that he encountered was the big sign at the village gate prohibiting people from entering and promoting gods other than the one they already worshiped. What was he to do? Outside the gate near a stream were some women washing clothes and visiting. He couldn’t go visit with them since men and women were prohibited from speaking in public. And anyway, women in that society were considered possessions. Why waste your time telling them about a new, wonderful relationship that they could have with God through Jesus? But that is what he did and several accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Do you know the difference in these two words? As our savior, Jesus paid the supreme price for our alienation from God; as our Lord, we follow him in all that we do and say. One of the women who came to Christ was Lydia, who ran a business creating purple cloth. Today we can buy clothing of every color of the rainbow. In the first century, purple cloth was made from some very rare shells and some evenly rare roots. Here is a woman who was considered by many to be one step above an animal, competing in the sale of a high end product; a strong, decisive woman.
We read that Lydia was baptized. We had four people baptized in this sanctuary a few weeks ago. My understanding of baptism is that the act of being immersed in water or having water sprinkled on our heads does not change us. Baptism is a public proclamation that we now recognize, and want everyone else to realize that we belong to Christ.
She invited Paul to her home. Wow, what a bold woman. She identified herself as a follower of Jesus. Now, this widow invites an unrelated male to her home for supper. She was doing what she believed was the right thing to do and didn’t care what people thought. God had spoken to her through Paul’s words about what God had done in his life. I’m sure that Paul would agree with me that it is thrilling when people respond to the message of the gospel with positive passion, instead of staring blankly.
Back in my early days as a follower of Jesus we used to invite people to “give as much as they could to as much of God as they could understand”. Lydia was passionate. Are you always comfortable around passionate people? Sometimes they are a little scary, they seem to lose touch with reality and get out of control. Of course there is misdirected passion that causes people to fly into skyscrapers or to be blind to the needs of others. Passions cam consume us.
The Japanese have a word for this—KAROSH, which means “death from work”. Doctors see a connection between some passions like high stress and heart attacks or strokes. People who allow their passion to become inappropriate, obsessive competition can cause great harm to themselves and others. Having said all that, I think that there is still a need for healthy, positive, appropriate passion which leads to risk taking action.
It is terrible to see people who don’t care about anything. I accused a friend of being this kind of person. He replied that he “got passionate and excited, but that he just did it quietly so no one will ever know.” If you care about something, let me see it.
If we are going to change this world for God it will be because we have a fire in our bellies that pushes us to share what we have experienced and invite others to seek God’s power and presence in their lives. Passion gets things done.
Several months ago we had a problem with some people not liking our Carillon. I was very polite and respectful but when I spoke to the city council, it was with passion. When I met with our former mayor to work out the details, I again demonstrated polite determination and positive passion. There are times when we have to stand up and make our voices heard.
It is wonderful and humbling to look back and see how God has moved in and through our lives affecting things. In the beginning of our scripture, Paul is unsure about God’s plan for him. It’s like that sometimes with us. We know that God has plans for our congregation and each of us. What is the plan? Well, we could start with the great commission that he shared with his followers when he was about to leave our world. He told them to go into all the world and make disciples and then to teach them how to follow and baptize them.
The world that we live in is different than it was 40-50 years ago. Heavens, it’s different than it was 40-50 days ago. More and more people identify themselves as unchurched. They aren’t finding what they want so they are opting out. They want truth, not rules. They seek an authentic relationship with God through Jesus, not religion. They want experiences, not just events. They look for spirituality, not just institutions.
Paul didn’t quite understand what God wanted him to do, but he knew the general direction. And so he walked 20,000 miles telling anyone and everyone he met about Jesus. Some turned their back, but many become followers. He knew that whatever God had planned was way beyond his understanding. He did know that it would take dedication and passion. He knew that he would have to open himself to God completely and take risks. God invited Lydia to a life of risks and passion, just as God invites us to find power, purpose, and joy as we seek to give ourselves to God’s plan and purpose for our lives. God bless as we are faithful and demonstrate positive passion in all that we do.