2012.05.20.「因為耶穌上天,所以…」.亞大偉牧師

「因為耶穌上天,所以…」

講道:亞大偉牧師
聖詩:132、136、509
啟應:40篇
經文:使徒行傳一章1-11節

INTRODUCTION
Thank you for allowing Yu-shan Theological College the opportunity to come before you on this memorial Sunday. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to stand in a pulpit today. For five years I was a pastor in Kaohsiung, and I had the opportunity to preach every week. But for the past 12 years I’ve been working in agencies and have had fewer opportunities to do what, maybe I’m not so good at, but which I LOVE to do.

This morning there is a lot of good news in these verses about Jesus’ ascension.

I: YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING
Why do people go to school? Beyond that the government requires everyone now to finish 12 or more years, Why do people go to school? Often it’s because they want to “get more knowledge”, isn’t it? And, why does anyone read the newspaper or watch the TV news? Do we really need to know all the things they tell us? Or is it just a quest to “know more knowledge”?
More than 30 years ago I lived in the Pingtung Presbytery Campus Ministries Center. I met many students from what then was Pingtung Agriculture School. I remember one fellow who wanted to show me how diligent a student he was, especially in the English language (I couldn’t speak Taiwanese then) and about America. He had found a list of all 50 American states. He was learning the name of each state and each state’s official motto. Why? Because it was knowledge which was possible to know. As a good student he wanted to know more.
But how much is enough? Ask that question of any Taiwanese person and the answer will be, “MORE!”
We are gathered in this church today because of some relationship to Christianity. Christians center our faith on God whom we come to know in our lives, in the lives of others, and in the Bible. We should know the Bible’s teachings and stories. That’s why we have Sunday school, that’s why we preach from the Bible when we worship. But how much is enough?
In our reading today we met Jesus and his disciples together today someplace near Jerusalem after the resurrection. As usual, his disciples were asking questions. They wanted to know the meaning of the times, they were looking for the restoration of independence to their nation. They wanted more knowledge about these things.
Jesus told them, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” In other words, you already know enough. You don’t need to know anything more about that.
That was good news. They were told that they didn’t have to keep wondering about it, searching for it, spending their time and energy on figuring it out. It is as if a school teacher had said to the students, though we didn’t finish all of the lessons in the textbook before the end of term, you know enough. Don’t worry about those later chapters. They were set FREE!
But what about the Kingdom that they were looking for? What about the independence of their nation, Israel? Jesus didn’t answer their question. They would have to go on living without this knowledge. Although among them some thought was so important that they spent their precious time with Jesus asking about it. What could they do without the answer they sought?
They would have to trust God.
And that’s what we have to do, too, with our limited knowledge of things that are eternal. We have to trust God.
I’m going to ask a few questions. The answer to each one is “We will trust God.”
Practice that with me, say, “We will trust God.” After each question I ask, you should answer together, “We will trust God”, sort of like another Responsive Reading.
1. When will Jesus come again? We will trust God
2. How many people will be saved? We will trust God
3. How will our church pass through the coming years? We will trust God
4. When will Taiwan be independent? We will trust God

Before he ascended, Jesus set his disciples free from having to know everything or from wasting their time on unimportant things. Because Jesus ascended, WE are free from having to focus on knowing much. We are free to focus on what is necessary. We can specialize. We are equipped to do so because Jesus promised power.

II: YOU WILL RECEIVE POWER
Power can be a good thing. Just ask the powerless, just remember how you felt when you were a teenager facing teachers, parents, or when you served as a soldier in the ranks facing the sergeants and officers, or perhaps your life as a young wife facing a mother in law. Just look at the foreign domestic servants in Taiwan and other places who are abused by their employers. Powerlessness is not desirable. Some amount of power is a good thing to have
But the power that Jesus promised those disciples was not “power for its own sake,” it was power for witness. This was a good thing for them, because they were a small minority of believers in Jesus in a land where the main religion was against them. They were a small minority of believers in God in an empire that said the King was God, and God was nothing. Jesus’ disciples at that time felt powerless, even for witness, in Jerusalem. They went back there and did as Jesus commanded, they waited, which, when you think of it, is a rather powerless thing to do, isn’t it?
Jesus’ promise to them, that they would receive power, was what they needed to hear. And it was fulfilled. They went back to Jerusalem and prayed (which is related to power, isn’t it?). On Pentecost day they were filled with power (you can read about that in chapter 2) and they testified for Christ. People were saved!
Jesus’ promise to them is also his promise to us. Power to witness is available to us. That’s a good thing, because we often feel powerless at witnessing. We don’t want to bother people, or feel that we will only get into an argument with them, etc. Trusting that we have power for witness gives us courage to witness. It’s not a matter of having had or not having had training, it is a matter of having been met by Jesus, loved by Jesus, and learned to trust Jesus through difficult times of life. We can testify to how Jesus carried us through those times.

Because we have power, we can witness, we need not fear even “though the earth should change.” The earth was the next part of the promise that Jesus gave them.

III: YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES
They were told that they would be witnesses there in the town where they were staying, and in the area around it, and in towns in neighboring places, and to the farthest away parts of the earth. That was freedom. They did not have to stay near to the place where they had met Jesus, or to the places where they had visited with Jesus. They could go. The rest of the Acts of the Apostles tells the stories of some of those disciples, and of others who came to believe in Christ through their testimony, and how they traveled in the area and as far away as they could imagine at that time. Further history tells of how other disciples who believed in later times went to far away wild places, like England, Canada, Samoa, Japan, China and Taiwan, carrying this same witness for Jesus.
I lived near the Culture Temple, a Taoist institution in Kaohsiung for more than 20 years. Once I went in and talked to the general manager. He told me that the god worshipped in that temple was from a particular place in China, and that the people who wanted to know more about that God would visit the place to get better acquainted with how they were to believe and how to live. It’s possible that many Christians who go on trips to Israel today are following the same sort of desire to be near to the places where our Lord Jesus Christ lived, died, rose and ascended. That’s fine, but it’s not necessary. Jesus’ direction for witness was outward.
People can feel stuck in place, but the power to witness allows us to cross lines. To witness not only to our family members, but to our neighbors, to people at work, to customers in the shops, to sellers in the marketplace, to classmates and to bosses. We will have opportunities, we can EXPECT to be given opportunities. Jesus promised it.

Today we consider crossing an historical line, the one between Taiwan’s plains and mountains. The line between Taiwan’s flatlanders and aborigines.

CONCLUSION:
During Japanese colonial times, Taiwan’s plains people could only look up at the mountains. There was a fence and police to keep plains people out of the mountains and aborigines off of the plains. A false story about a Chinese man who lost his head to Aborigines in Chia-yi County was told to make plains people feel superior to the barbarians who lived on the other side of the fence. At that time, Taiwan’s flatlanders could only look up at the mountains. They were like the disciples who saw Jesus ascend looked up at the clouds. But angels came and told the disciples not to keep looking up, Jesus would come back, Jesus would come down.
During the Japanese colonial era brave evangelists, some aboriginal, some Taiwanese, some Japanese, shared the gospel with people from the other side of the fence. After war aborigines became Christians, but access to mountain areas still controlled by the KMT government. The Aboriginal Churches grew, and aboriginal pastors were trained for work in mountains at Yu-shan Theological College.
Now Taiwan is a free country. Everyone can go into the mountains, and all from the mountains can come to plains, but still we do not mix much. Our cultures and languages separate us. Though we are one in Christ, still we cannot converse in the languages of our hearts, but must use the language of our heads, the Mandarin Chinese we learned in school. Faith in Christ is a matter of the inmost being, the heart. To enable Aboriginal sisters and brothers to continue to have religion of the heart, the center, need to support Yu-shan Theological College.
Yes, aborigines can and do study at Tainan Theological College, where I work. When these students preach to the college they use Mandarin so we could understand. They often speak very well. But how will they will be pastors in Aboriginal churches is an open question. Those who are trained in Taiwanese and Mandarin may lack something when it comes to ministering in an Aboriginal situation.
Taiwan’s Aboriginal churches need Yu-shan Theological College where the pastors of Aboriginal Churches can learn in an Aboriginal context, where their cultures are understood, respected and emphasized.
Our East Gete church recognizes this need, and invites a representative of Yushan Theological College to speak here every year. Yu-shan Theological College thanks you, and asks that you continue in concern, prayer and offering for the sake of the college, for the sake of Taiwan’s aboriginal churches, for the sake of this beautiful island which we call home. Amen