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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Something Else Over Which We Have No Control

2014-06-01 Acts 1:6-14

I want you to do a different kind of responsive reading with me.
This is a responsive reading of news, ripped from today's headlines. 
Your response will be, “Something else, over which, we have no control.” 
Ready, go: 
“Something else, over which, we have no control.”

As U.S. ponders Syrian aid plan, vicious al Qaeda group goes on a rampage
“Something else, over which, we have no control.”

According to alleged NSA documents, your smartphone camera could [spy on you] without your knowledge.
“Something else, over which, we have no control.”

Ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer buys NBA's LA Clippers for $2 billion
 “Something else, over which, we have no control.”

Kim Kardashian & Kanye West Jet To Prague During Romantic Honeymoon
 “Something else, over which, we have no control.”

Texas man still buzzing from 60 espresso shot Starbucks drink
 “Something else, over which, we have no control.”

Whether you get your news from the paper, TV, or Twitter, you know pretty much how it’s going to be.
It gets exhausting, hearing so much about so many things over which we have no control.
We might wring our hands over it, or get something to grouse about at the barbershop, or fuel for snarky banter, but truthfully,
Most of the news is stuff over which we have no control. 

Is it just me? 
You feel that way, too?

It can get really depressing if you think about it too much. 
You wonder, is God on vacation?
When’s Jesus gonna come back and fix stuff?
If you ever ask that question, or feel that way, you are in good company. 
Welcome to Christian discipleship.
What they don’t tell you when you sign up, is that your people have always spent a lot of time waiting and wondering, is Jesus really in control, and what can I do about it?


If you look at the Book of The Acts of the Apostles, the sequel to the Gospel According to Luke, it hits these very same questions head-on. 
The disciples are literally standing around, looking up at heaven and saying,
“We have no control; when is God going to fix everything?”

“So when they (the 11 remaining Apostles) had come together...”
(Which means, when they were brave enough to come out from behind their locked doors, because their world was crazy and dangerous, too.)
“… they asked him...”
(That is, they asked the resurrected Jesus who was standing among them.)
“... “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

You see, every time these Apostles unroll their news scrolls, something terrible or crazy is on the front page. 
Some friend of theirs is in the Police Blotter.
They’re hoping their own names aren’t in the Obituaries. 
Everything is something else, over which, they have no control. 
The Roman government’s beginning to think, “We have lions. We have Christians. How would it be if we put them together?”
So, the first thing on the Apostles’ minds is, “Lord, have you come back to fix stuff?”
The Apostles aren’t being spiritual, as in, “Lord, is this the time when you’re going to come live down in my heart to stay?” 
The question they’re asking is, “Lord, is this the time YOU’RE going to put your boots on the ground and overthrow our overlords and put us in charge of our holy land?” 
It’s not that spiritual. 
These people want control over their headlines. 
They want something over which they have control. 
And they’re hoping Jesus will hand it to them. 
Is this why you’re here, Lord? 
Is this the time?

“Lord, the government won’t listen to us.”
“Lord, there aren’t enough jobs.”
“Lord, the banks are foreclosing.”
“Lord, healthcare is a mess.”
“Lord, there are just too many things, over which, we have no control.”

And Jesus gives what must have been a deeply disappointing answer.
Verse 1:7 - He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.”

If Jesus knows, he’s not telling.
And that’s hard to accept, even for us.
We’d expect Jesus to have all authority. 
We’d expect him to have all power. 
We’d want him to use his authority, to exercise his power to exert control.
But he doesn’t. 
Even Jesus is something else, over which we have no control. 


When you’re trying to be a teacher, or a preacher, or a parent, “I don't know” can really be the hardest answer.
Isn’t that so?
“Dad, what’s a diphthong?”
“Uh… your uncle Clarence?”
“And I’ll thank you not to use language like that in this house.”
“You kids just want everything handed to you.
“How are you going to learn anything if I tell you all the answers? 
“I think you’re gonna have to Google that one for yourself. 
“Like I did, when I was a boy.”

It takes more courage to admit there are answers you don’t know than to maintain the illusion of authority.

Jesus gave up authority. 
Jesus gave up his authority before the religious leaders. 
Jesus gave up authority before the Roman government. 
We’re like the disciples, always asking when OUR authority is going to be restored, and here’s Jesus is giving away whatever control he has to tell us.

The disciples asked,
“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  
When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Jesus floats away without answering their question.

But here’s the part I love.
(Verse 10) While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”

In other words, instead of standing there like carps waiting on breadcrumbs, get to work on what you DO have control over.
The angels say, “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

We can’t control the comings and goings of Jesus.
But we can control our own.
We don’t know when Jesus will restore the kingdom, but in the meantime, we CAN be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
We don’t know when Jesus will fix that over which we have no control.
But until then, we CAN fix that over which we do have control.
We can be his witnesses, his messengers with hammer & nails and Camp John Knox.
We can be his caregivers, his counselors with the compassion of the Stephen Ministry.
We can take casseroles to people who are sick.
We can have a beverage with friends who are lonely.
We can make that phone call, or send that card, or give that hug, instead of driving past and thinking, “I really ought to reach out to her, or to him.”
You don’t need the authority of the Almighty or answers or control.
You just need to get your head out of the clouds and your boots on the ground.

“Something else over which we have no control,” can turn into a pretty depressing little mantra.
And if you listen to the news of the world, you’ll start repeating it, over and over, until you believe in it.
But Jesus said his power and authority didn’t come from this world. 
The power and authority of Christ come from a place where compassion is more important than control, 
A place where doing what little you can is more productive than worrying about what great things you can’t. 
“Men and women of Lake Hills: why do you stand there, looking up toward heaven?”
Find one thing over which you have some little control, some small ability.
Let God leverage your work into something beautiful for the kingdom.