This Sunday in Sanctuary I’m continuing my series of sermons entitled Jesus the Good Troublemaker. So far in the series, we have focused on Jesus’ good trouble, but what about his followers? In the book of Acts, which tells the story of the early church, we see that the good troublemaking behavior of Jesus continues in his followers.
My sermon Sunday is entitled “Turning the World Right Side Up: the Good Trouble of Following Jesus.”
Little children are delighted when they discover that they can prop themselves up on the back of the couch or hang their heads off in such a way that they are upside down. They love to see the world from that perspective. I have wonderful memories of our three daughters making that discovery and proclaiming, “Hey, everything is upside down!” Of course, it wasn’t upside down. It was a matter of perspective.
In the 17th chapter of Acts we read that Paul and Silas were in Thessalonica and through simply bearing witness to their faith and doing what disciples do, they got into trouble. Their words and deeds scandalized some of the people of the city and they were attacked. The attackers went after Jason, in whose house Paul and Silas were staying, and took him to the authorities. They shouted: “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.”
These followers of Jesus were turning the world upside down — but, of course, that is just a matter of perspective. In truth, they were doing what they could do to turn the world right side up!
It should be no surprise that Jesus’ followers would have such an accusation made against them. Think of Jesus’ teachings. They turn our values on their heads. They take what we simply accept to be right side up and they make us see that, in fact, it’s upside down. These are the right side up values. These are the values that help us to get our lives turned right side up and to lead the abundant life that Jesus came to bring us. These are the values that would turn our very world right side up if we followed them.
G. K. Chesterton, the great British pastor and author of detective stories, commented on the collection of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew called The Sermon on the Mount: “On first reading you feel that it turns everything upside down, but the second time you read it you discover that it turns everything right side up. The first time you read it you feel it is impossible; the second time, you feel that nothing else is really possible.”
Sunday is All Saints Day — the day we remember and celebrate those followers of Jesus who have gone before us, especially those who were part of our community of faith. Each one — in small ways and sometimes great ways — worked to turn the world right side up. They went out to be God’s people in the world, as we say at the end of our services.
May we go out to be God’s people turning the world right side up — turning on its head complacency, injustice, prejudice, moral indifference, hatred, and smug self-satisfaction.
As you think about that this week, consider these questions: What is upside down in our world today? In our nation? In our community? What can you do to turn something right side up? Think of one person whose life caused good trouble because they followed the way of Jesus. What did that person do?
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Acts 17:1-12 (NRSV)
1 After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.” 4 Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house. 6 When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” 8 The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, 9 and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go.
10 That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea; and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing.