Hi everybody I’m Jo Saxton, and I’m so sad we can’t meet in person. But it’s great to be with you in this way here.
Such a disorienting time. On one level, it could be seen as – I don’t know – pregnant with possibility, but at the same time – really, honestly – it’s just hard. It’s just difficult when you don’t quite know what to feel, and you don’t know what it means now, and you don’t know how to live now. And maybe you’re supposed to be brave or feel brave or feel clear and visionary and strong, but what – what does it mean? And how do you step into your influence now, in the middle of this. When you wonder how things are forever changed and you’re not really sure what that means for you anymore.
Now, on one level I could be talking about today, but I’m actually not. I’m actually referring to a different era, a different time – that I’m going to focus on for our time together today. And I know there may be some deep resonance, but I’m actually talking about the early church and I’m actually talking about that moment when Jesus says “goodbye,” and He gives what I like to call ‘His marching orders.’
The disciples are wondering what this means now so much has happened. So much has happened, and in the midst of it all, they are still under Roman rule. They are still controlled – their movements, their nation – controlled by something else.
Yes, Jesus transforming things changes everything, but what does that mean – now – and how do they live in the lives that they have with that?
Well, let me read to you from Acts 1:6-8: “Then they gathered around Him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time, going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It’s not for you to know the dates or the times the Father has set by His own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and Samaria and the ends of the earth.'”
He says to them there and then, “Hey, this isn’t about who’s in control in terms of political power right now,” because they were like, “Surely it’s time now. Surely you’re going to do things now.” He says, “Actually, the power you’re going to have will be when the Spirit of God comes upon you.” That, “It’s about a different kind of Kingdom. And you will be witnesses.” Not talking hearsay, but someone who testifies by their lived experience and in their lived experience, what the kingdom of God is like.
Because even then, as well as now, the kingdom of God was never a geographical location, it was about the rule of God. What happened when God ruled an environment.
And it’s interesting that we see Jesus say, “And you will be these witnesses, you will show people what I’m like. You will live in front of people what I’m like. In your city – in Jerusalem, in Judea – the surrounding countryside, in Samaria – which is actually on your doorstep, which is actually right among you, but it’s amongst the people who you don’t like, whom culturally, you have enmity with. Who ethnically, you consider other from you. You’re gonna be witnesses there by my power. And to the ends of the earth.”
And when we look at the rest of Acts, we see it unfold – don’t we. We see that reality unfold. Whether it’s through Lydia, a business woman or Luke, a doctor, whether it’s in Antioch, where you have a church leadership team which is multiethnic and from different socioeconomic groups. Or whether it’s Romans 16, where you see these leaders who are risking their lives and it’s often noted by theologians – a litany of women leaders there.
A litany of women leaders who are representing. You see it in how they lived their lives. But they are now witnesses.
You see it when Barnabas, who has all these resources, gives it to the disciples as they see fit. He’s not even asking for anything. We see it as they have to get to grips with who they’ve been and where they’ve been, as they have to wrestle with the reality that the Hebraic Jewish widows and the Greek widows are being treated differently. And it’s time to fix it.
But each and every step they’re taking– yes in Jerusalem. Yes, in Judea. Yes, amongst other cultures and amongst those whom they’re historically enemies with, amongst Samaria, and yes the ends of the earth when they eventually get there, they are by the power of God, a living witness to who He is.
And they have no buildings, they have no budgets, they have no platform, and yet. They have lots of trouble, lots of complexity, lots of difficulty, and yet. The kingdom of God comes until the empire of Rome comes under the sound of the gospel. Until the known world encounters the love of Christ, through everyday, ordinary men and women who are living their lives and doing their jobs. Who are recognizing what they’re created for.
And now it’s our turn.
You see, every generation, we know this to be true – every generation has to work out what they will do about the challenges and the opportunities of their day. And we have had a rupture, and yes, maybe it may feel pregnant with possibility, but actually it’s so disorienting isn’t it? But the ways in which we understood what it meant to live for Christ is different now and we don’t know what it means in our world now, and yet. And yet.
This is what we are created for – to know God intimately, but to represent Him in the world. Men and women, whether you’re a business woman, or a doctor, whether you’re a church leader, male or female, wherever you find yourself – that you would live the words of the Kingdom, that you would do the work of the Kingdom, that you would live the way of the Kingdom of God, by the power of God. Not by your celebrity, not by your charisma, not by your wealth or influence but by the Holy Spirit, by the power of God in your life. And that your lived experience would not be just the hearsay of another. But what you are living out in your words, in the things that you do in your way. And when I say your way – the you living out the way of Christ, in your context as it were.
How will you and I step into our influence in disorienting times? I wonder if we’ve decided it’s impossible, because we don’t have the buildings, we don’t have the budgets, we don’t have the resources, we don’t have the platform. Friends, you’re in incredible company, because you still have a Kingdom call to see God rule at work, to see God rule in your relationships, to see God’s rule in your communities, in your cities, in those regions long forgotten, in those places that at a societal level are deeply divided. That’s where the Christians are meant to run. And yes to the ends of the earth.
Will you step into your influence in your everyday way? Knowing that you are kept and empowered by the presence of God. Knowing that you are sourced and that your dreams and visions are fueled by the Spirit of God. Knowing that the Spirit of God comes alongside you, to empower you for the challenges and eventually the opportunities of our day.
You’ll be my witnesses, He says. Yes, in your Jerusalem. Yes, in your Judea, yes, in your Samaria, and to the very ends of the earth.
May we run our race. May we take our lap. May we step up into our influence, taking our everyday lives, our everyday jobs, our everyday resources – and it may feel like it’s nothing. It may feel uncertain, but will we be faithful to the call of God. To God’s very design on our lives and how He’s wired us – but also to the commission of God.
Let’s live and do what we’re created for. Step into your influence.