“Stuck in the Middle”

Acts 1:1-11


            To quote a well-known commercial … “How do you eat an Oreo cookie?

            I know, that sounds pretty random, but you should know by now that my mind sometimes comes up with some weird ideas.  As I was reading through our text from Acts 1, as well as some other material in preparation for this sermon, … the Oreo cookie came to mind.

            But before we get into our text, let’s go back to this somewhat random question … “how do you eat an Oreo cookie?

            Show of hands … how many of you dunk it?  How many of you just pop the whole thing in your mouth?  Who takes little bites till it’s gone?  Who here twist it apart, eat the filling out of the middle, and then eat the two cookie sides?

            The reason I bring this up and why it came to mind is because the Oreo cookie reminded me of the disciples in our reading this morning.  I know that seems a bit strange, but stay with me.

            You see, the disciples find themselves stuck right in the middle of two major events in the life of Jesus.  Forty days earlier, Jesus rose from the dead and made his appearance to the disciples.  Unknowingly to the two disciples, Jesus walked with them on the way to Emmaus.  Along the way he talked to them and eventually revealed himself to them as he broke bread.  Jesus later showed himself to the disciples in the locked upper room.  There he showed them his glorified body, he showed them the holes in his hands and side, he ate fish in their midst to prove it was really him and that he wasn’t a ghost.  This is one half of the cookie.

             The other half of the cookie, the other major event the disciples witness is the physical ascension of Jesus up into the cloud.  On the Mount of Olivet, Jesus tells them that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and that they will be witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Jesus then blesses the disciples and as he is blessing them, he is taken up into a cloud.

            These two events, the resurrection and the ascension are the outside cookies of what the disciples are stuck in the middle of.  Over the course of the forty days between these two events, Jesus made other appearances to the disciples and helped open their minds so that they could understand the Scriptures, so that they could understand the Old Testament and see how it all pointed to him as the Messiah and Savior. 

            But there’s another sandwich cookie experience which happens.  It’s the part of the story where you and I can very easily see ourselves.

            The disciples get to witness Jesus ascend up into the cloud.  As Jesus disappears, the disciples stand there … just staring up into the sky.  Looking up there, wondering if maybe they’ll catch a glimpse of him or maybe he was just tricking them and was going to return … two men in white robes, two angels appear and ask them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?  This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go” (Acts 1:11).  In other words, the angels are telling them that they need to quit just standing there staring off into space.  Standing around with their hands in their pockets isn’t going to get them ready for the work which lies ahead of them.  Jesus ascending into heaven marks the end of cookie, but it also the beginning of another cookie.

            The other half of the cookie is an event which the disciples, which you and I, are still waiting for.  The other half is the return of Christ which the angels mentioned.  In between the ascension of Jesus and the return of Jesus, we find ourselves.  We are stuck in the middle of these two events.

            But what does this look like being stuck in the middle?  Well, the disciples aren’t completely sure.  They know from the angels that standing in the middle of that field isn’t going to get anything accomplished.  So they go back to Jerusalem, they headed back to the upper room where we’re told “they joined together in constant prayer” (1:14a).  They gather together in anticipation of receiving the Holy Spirit.

            And once they receive that precious gift of the Holy Spirit, there is no stopping them.  These timid and scared disciples have a fire lit within and under them and all of a sudden they are out.  They are out and about doing the work of God.  And this work of God is enjoyable, it’s sweet … just like the inside of an Oreo cookie.

            And this is where we find ourselves as well.  We are in the middle of Jesus’ ascension into heaven and his victorious return.  Through God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, we have that same sweet, sweet message of salvation given to us which was given to the disciples.  The disciples didn’t stand around with their hands in their pockets just waiting for Christ to return, they got out and spread the sweetness.  They started in Jerusalem.  They went out into all of Judea and Samaria and eventually to the ends of the earth. 

           And that is exactly what we are called to do as well.  As Christians, we are called by God to go out into the world and spread the sweet message of salvation.  With the Holy Spirit living and dwelling within us, with faith in Jesus as our Savior … that’s all we really need.  Remember, the disciples weren’t pastors or Biblical scholars.  They were calloused hand fisherman with the sweet love of Jesus within them.

           But who are we kidding right?  Even though being in the middle of Jesus’ ascension and return should be sweet like the icing in an Oreo, it isn’t always sweet is it?  The disciples found themselves in all sorts of situations which weren’t sweet.  They suffered beatings and imprisonment, they experienced persecutions and were challenged in their faith.  Of all the disciples, only one of them died of old age, all the rest of them were killed for their faith.

            Like the disciples, your and my life, they aren’t always sweet like the icing in the middle of a cookie.  Sometimes they are sour, sometimes they are bitter, sometimes they just taste horrible.  Moments of excessive anxiety to where it physically hurts, fear of the unknown, diseases which take over our bodies.  Feelings of guilt and disappointment as a result of a particular sin.  Watching society slip farther and farther away from Christian values and feeling as if God has abandoned us in our hour of need.  These all take away from the sweetness which is suppose to be there in the middle.

            If these are the things which get us down, which keep us up at night, which causes us to doubt and wonder … where are we? 

            You know, much like those who like to pull apart a sandwich cookie and eat the sweet cream and leave the cookie … in our moments of questioning, our moments of doubt … we may for a moment find where we aren’t in the middle anymore.  We may find that we are trying to take things upon ourselves and aren’t fully trusting God.

            In the midst of their trials and persecution, in the midst of their being stoned, burned, crucified, or however else the disciples of Jesus were killed … the disciples found themselves stuck in the middle, they were sandwiched by God’s great love.

            No matter what you or I are suffering or going through … like the disciples, you and I are stuck in the middle, we are sandwiched by God’s great love.  Remembering this morning how Jesus ascended into heaven and promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of his eternal presence to be with us wherever we go, we actively await the glorious return of Christ.  We live knowing the sweetness of forgiveness and salvation.  However it is we do it, we lovingly spread the good, good news of Jesus, so that others may also be stuck in the middle of God’s love.  Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever.  Amen.


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