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Sermon to Chinese, Going Home, 04-02-06

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Going Home After a Long Time Away

By Noel Kelley

 


Many of our Chinese are making trips back home to China now after being away for a long time

The first thing we all do after a trip back home is to make our initial greetings and expressions of happiness and perhaps tears of gladness

After our initial greetings we begin to tell about our experiences since we were last together

Those who stayed behind want to hear about the trip and what happened

And those who stayed behind also want to tell about what is was going on while we were gone

In most cases the Chinese are going back home with knowledge, and sometimes a commitment, to Christianity they did not have when they left home

The folks back home may know nothing of God and not even believe in such a thing as Jesus Christ

So when the Traveler sees their family and friends, they will certainly tell them all about their experiences and what they learned when they were far away

And many of these experiences will be a surprise, and maybe a shock to those they visit.

And when they hear of the new spiritual beliefs it may not be received in a positive way

After the telling there may be an adjustment and adaptation for all

The Traveler must adapt to his home folks and circumstances which may have changed while he was gone

Those who stayed behind must adapt to the Traveler who is a different person now that he has been on a long trip and had many new experiences

And spiritual orientation could become a major subject for conflict

In the story we are about to study these are the same things that occurred 2,000 years ago in the Bible

READ Acts 21:17-25

When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

In this story they were received warmly and reported in detail what God had done

When they heard this, they praised God

Those in Jerusalem were excited to hear Paul’s story of what had happened on his trip

Then they began to tell what had happened at home in Jerusalem while Paul was gone

They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.

While the traveler was gone he may have communicated home, and these communications may have been distorted and false impressions and fears created

The folks back home may have jumped to conclusions that are not correct because they cannot get the complete picture from where they are

Moreover when the Traveler is excited by the new things he has learned, this can be seen as an attack on the old ways back home

So the folks back home may tell the Traveler to do something that everyone can see that will show his support for home and the old ways

In this story they said, so do what we tell you… Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you,

All this happened in this Bible story

READ Acts 21:26-32

The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them. 27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.) 30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

While Paul tried to demonstrate his support for the Jewish law by fulfilling a vow, the whole thing backfired

When conflicts develop over issues as serious as religion, people often believe what they want to believe

People see things as the think they are, not as they really are

And attempts at trying to bring harmony to conflicting spiritual values sometimes only make the conflict worse

In the Bible case as in cases today, explanations and attempts at telling about a new way of seeing and doing things are rejected without serious consideration because most people are just not open minded

Moreover unless you have shared experiences it is hard to see things the same way

The things a Traveler has learned are hard to bring back home to those who have not traveled themselves

Even the telling can only be vaguely understood

They said, this is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.”

They drew the conclusion that Paul had breeched the holiness of their spiritual values based on distorted information

(They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)

Someone had seen a Greek and assumed he was in the temple area

How often today do people make false assumptions about spiritual values because it suits their purpose and supports their preconceived notions?

Fortunately rarely do encounters of the traveler coming home and telling about it lead to a riot, but it can certainly lead to harsh words and family splits

After Paul’s arrest he tries to speak to the crowd in their own language

READ Acts 21:40-22:2

Having received the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic: 1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.” 2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.

When they heard their own language they became willing to listen

Finding people willing to listen is the hardest part a Traveler has in trying to bring new experiences

And getting people to listen only happens if you speak to them in their own language

People can only learn something new if they go from what is familiar to what is unfamiliar

People cannot start with the unfamiliar, or they reject what is said

But while speaking in familiar ways is a start, at some point you must get to the unfamiliar

The unfamiliar is the crossover point where people will continue to be with you, or there is a parting

In Paul’s case there was a parting

Then Paul told them about his own personal experience of spiritual conversion and he finished his story with these words

READ Acts 22:21-22

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” 22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”

In his story Paul told them something that was a complete mismatch with their fundamental values

The Jews were racists and did not accept other races such as the Gentiles

The crowd listened to Paul until he said this

How often today do we have this experience of someone listening until …..?

We are talking to someone about spiritual values, and they listen until we say something that doesn’t fit their preconceived ideas

Well this story ends badly

READ Acts 22-23

As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks.


In this story the people really loose their composure and do crazy things

I hope this doesn’t happen to you but it could

So what is the point of this lesson?

Be Prepared

Be Determined

Be Courageous

Go Forward in the Face of Opposition

Do What is right Irrespective of the Consequences

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