April 7, 2013 - Acts 5.27-32

“White Water People”

Acts 5:27-32

April 7, 2013


27When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them,28saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.”29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.30The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.31God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.32And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”


Leonard Sweet says that we now live in a fluid based culture.[1]  We no longer have a culture that has its foundation on solid ground.  We used to be fond of terms like “grounded”, “solid”, “rooted.”  The modern world used to like terms like that, and understood itself in very firm, solidified language.  But no longer, Sweet says.  We have gone beyond rigid, gone far past flexible and we have come to a place in our culture where everything is fluid – constantly changing, swept by currents, affected by the pull of the moon.


Walter Wilson writes that we now live in a time of “radical discontinuity.”[2]  What he means by that is we now live in a time where things are changing faster than anyone can explain.  In the next five years we will experience a generation’s worth of change.  In some of your lifetimes, you have already seen over 25 generations worth of change.  This figure is based upon how the world used to change, at the rate it used to change.  But even that idea does not apply anymore.


To cite a 1980’s bard, “Today’s Tom Sawyer knows changes aren’t permanent, but change is.”[3]  Change is more that just a permanent part of our lives, change now overwhelms us like a Tsunami.  So what should we do in response to this new fluid culture?  How should the Church of Jesus Christ respond to all of this?


I apologize if what I am about to say shocks some of you.  I do not wish to dash your perceptions of me upon the rocks of reality, but I do wish to be honest with you, and disclose myself fully.  It will surprise some of you, and perhaps shock you – but I am NOT a surfer.  I know, I know, some of you now wonder even if you know me at all.  But I do not surf.  Seriously, though, we as Christians will need to learn surf, sail, canoe or kayak or something to be the church in this fluid culture. We need to be able to get from point A to point B and navigate these waters to reach people.  We need to be better at our jobs in this regard than Carnival Cruise Lines is at theirs.  Why do I say this?  Because in a fluid culture, it is very easy for people to drown, and only strong swimmers, sailors and surfers will be able to save them.


My friend and former youth minister, Mac, is a surfer.  He tells me that surfing is one of the most spiritual things he does.  He talks about the thrill he gets when surfing, the connection that he makes with the wave.  He says it is a lot like letting the power of God move you, drive you and push you faster than you ever thought possible.  He says surfing is a lot like the kind of life we ought to live as disciples of Jesus.  We must lean into the wave of God’s Spirit allowing God to propel us.


There is a dramatic transformation in the disciples of the gospels to the disciples of Acts – after the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  Scripture Reactions – they met in the Temple for all to see.  They had been “disturbing the peace.”  They were healing people and preaching about a “criminal.”  When they got out of jail, via a miracle, they went right back to the Temple and kept doing it.  WOW! 

But it seems Christians were always getting into trouble.  Stephen.  John on Patmos.  Paul always is in jail.  Christians once lived lives that proclaimed loud and clear that Christians were different.  We are to live lives that are exciting to see – lives that others envy – lives that others do not understand “how they do it.” 


Who do you look at and ask “how do they do that?”  A surfer?  A disciple?  Phil Edwards, great surfer.  “I believe that most people have a need for controlled danger in their lives.  But most people are among the ‘Legions of the unjazzed.’”  In order to be a surfer, you must be willing to get on a wave big enough to carry you – you have to get out among the white water, where the waves are breaking.  Small waves might be safe, but they are no fun and they don’t give much to surf with.


What waves do we ride?  What issues do we address for the public to see?  List: Denominational Politics. Little fights here and there.  But in the end, all we ever do, it seems, is to let people know that what we are opposed to.  (Pass resolutions) We shout to the world, “We don’t like this! We are ag’in it!”  Then we pick another issue for next year.  That is weak.  All talk.  No action.  That’s the equivalent of a person standing on the beach, making comments about all the waves, and never getting into the water, but criticizing every surfer they see on their poor technique.  Seems we are content to stand on the shore, waxing our surfboards, until they have become so worn down they are useless for actual surfing.

Remember Bold Mission Thrust?  It died from starvation and neglect because we paid too much attention to denominational politics to get it done.

If you are going to be a good surfer – you have to go out where the BIG waves are – the White Water waves, like Hawaii in the winter, Australia, etc.  The White Water issues of our time:  Poverty, racism, bigotry, corporate society, hunger, human rights, not to mention salvation, unconditional love, AIDS, caring properly for our children, youth and elderly.


We are free in our country to stand up for Jesus and our Faith.  We do NOT face persecution in our country.  We only think we do because we are wimps.  Christians are not faced with persecution here.  We are faced with peer pressure, which is totally different.  We need to quit slapping the victim label on ourselves every time we experience someone disagreeing with us or taking up a contrary position to part of our faith.  We are free to believe, they are free to disagree.  That’s how freedom works.  But it does a huge disservice to the Christians in other countries that ARE being literally persecuted for their faith.  Some of them are actually in the same situation the disciples were in our scripture. 


I put up a new poster in my Sunday School class this week that says “I will praise the name of the Lord and I will not be ashamed – this poster is illegal in 51 countries.”


The disciples did just that.  Peter got in the faces of the Sadducees!  We obey God, not men!  That is a direct critique of the Sadducees failure to obey their own law and becoming sycophants to the Romans.  Exactly what is it we are afraid of losing? The counsel from many Christians is always “We are just one church.  We are just one group of people.  We are just one church in one small town, we shouldn’t expect so much of ourselves.”  Now some people will call that level headed thinking, but I call flat headed.  Would the disciples have bought that?  What would Jesus have said?  “Get thee behind me Satan?”  “Go home and sell all your goods to the poor and then you can follow me?”  “No man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back…”  “You saw me hungry, but gave me no food, thirsty and no drink, in jail, oppressed, naked…  Go away for ye never knew me?”

Some people are so afraid of rocking the boat that they stop rowing completely.  Too often we want our faith to solve all our problems for us.  Too often we think our faith is about making us comfortable. 

Sunset Memorial Park – Man came to pastor with a question.  How do I avoid my fears, problems, suffering and anxieties? I’ll pay you $1000 if you can tell me how.  Give directions. None of the people here have any problems, or worries, or anxieties, or sufferings, because they are dead.  Life is about these things.  Our faith is a living faith and is about making us not comfortable, but conformable to God.  Our faith is about taking risks to love others in the name of Jesus.


Lean into the wave; trust it completely.  If we are going to be able to live our lives in the kind of contagious manner of the disciples, and experience the thrill of being in on something that is greater than ourselves, then we have to trust the wave of God’s Spirit and lean into it.


Easter people are white water people – fearless.  New Zealand theologian Michael Riddell writes, “When we know that we are safe in Christ, we are free to go wherever we want and mix with whoever we find, and do it without fear.”[4]


Philadelphia Ice Storm.  The city was shut down.  Not even the road teams were out.  First Pres. Church.  “Mister are you Jesus?”  At that moment, he was Jesus to that child!  How much more Christian can you get, that someone might think that you are Jesus?  People that sit on the shore and make comments about the waves don’t get moments like that.


A Scientologist actor said about his faith, “I’m just as happy as a puppy.” A Puppy.  Right.  Scientology is a “me, me, me” kind of farce, where your bad vibes and memories are cleansed by a machine called an e-meter that you pay for a guy to come and administer.  “Puppy” is accurate, because a puppy can’t handle his own messes and needs to be cared for, cleaned up after and whines a lot.  Scientology and other New Age religions focus on you, and what they can get you to buy into, but they do nothing for the rest of the world and do not leave it a better place.  They do not care for others and will not help others when they are in dire need.  What good is an e-meter going to do when you are told you have cancer?  A puppy kind of faith will never carry anyone through the hard times that life throws at you.  There is a reason all Scientologists are rich people with no real problems.  A puppy kind of faith is the runt of the litter – they are the ones that don’t make it.

I don’t want to be a puppy, always having to be taken care of and making a mess of things.  I want to be a big dog, with a bark and a bite to match, able to take on whatever comes my way, knowing that with God all things are possible, that greater is Him who is in me than him who is in the world, and that I am never alone.  Come Hell, High water, Death or disease, what ever.  I’m up for it, My faith is a big dog.  Big dogs don’t hesitate to jump into the white water to rescue those in need.  A puppy sits at the water’s edge and whines.  What kind of faith do you have?


We need to be the Coast Guard of this fluid culture.  We need to be the ones rescuing the perishing, caring for the dying.  The motto of the Coast Guard, which appears on every Coast Guard vessel is this:  “We have to go out.  We don’t have to come back.”


Jesus was a white water person.  He never played it safe, and yet he did not have a death wish, either.  He challenged others, sometimes with a gentle hand, but others times he spoke with such a prophetic and powerful voice, that even the voices of his detractors were silenced, and even though they were clearly in authority and had all the power, often they were handcuffed out of sheer amazement at what Jesus was doing.  Jesus risked himself for us.  Jesus did not think it unjust that his life was demanded to save us from our own fate


In the early church, the most ideal place to have a baptism was in “living water,” water that was moving in a current.  In fact, that our culture is now fluid means that the Spirit of God will be able to move in currents and tides and ripples like never before.  We can tell people about the Living Water of Jesus which will keep them from ever thirsting again.  Folks, you were born in baptismal waters, and your place in the water still.  Among the white water, where its rough, where people need saving.  In fact, all that we do here is a monument to the risk that Jesus took.  In this world where people are drowning in their sin, let’s be White Water People, the people of God.  Rescuing the Perishing, caring for the dying.  Lean into the wave of God’s Spirit and find the life worth living.


[1] Leonard Sweet, Aqua Church.

[2] Wilson, Walter P.; The Internet Church: The Local Church Can’t Be Just Local Anymore, Word Publishing, Nashville, 2000.

[3] Neil Peart, Tom Sawyer, as recorded by Rush on the album Moving Pictures.

[4] As quoted by Leonard Sweet in Aqua Church.


  December 2017  
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