This week we are talking about Holy Boldness. That defines who we are. We are not just a church, for what has kept us going is really a ministry. It has been a ministry of trying to be faithful to what God wants us to be and then having the courage to bear witness to that against the hypocrisy of unjust laws. That is why when we gathered this week at the Teamster hall we had families from this church that stood up and gave witness that they were following God’s law and that therefore they would not bow down before a hypocritical law of man that separated families. And when we went there this week we had hundreds of young people with us. And they came saying we are not just there for ourselves but for our whole families. And that is as God intended. And we went there also with hundreds of young children. And they were there because they are being raised up in the ways of the Lord.
We are beginning a new phase of this ministry that will not only be in our churches. Each of these three forms of ministries, Familia Latina Unida, la Fuerza Juventud and La Fuerza “peewees” will become organizations of faith that can spread not only in Chicago but across the continent.
I am very excited about the ministry that has come out of our churches, out of our faith, but I think there are some adjustments we need to make. The Question I ask today is “are we serious about healing?”
In scripture today, Peter had been arrested. Why? Because he had called the priests and Pharisees murderers of Jesus Christ. He had organized thousands of people to follow Jesus and confront the hypocrites who kept them in the shadows. Who oppressed them and kept them poor.
But remember how he convinced the people. He healed a crippled man, a paralytic. The beggar had asked Peter for money and Peter had said, “I have neither gold nor silver, but take my hand and stand up. And the man had stood up and walked. It was a miracle. And then he had gone into the temple from which he was excluded saying the name of Jesus Christ.
The authorities had not arrested Peter and John because they healed the [paralytic but because they got him to stand up for Jesus and confront the hypocrites. They arrested them because they were organizing the people against the injustice of crucifying the innocent. But the people supported them because they had seen the paralytic healed with their own eyes.
They tried to get Peter and John to agree to be silent. They didn’t want to keep them in jail or crucify them because they feared the people who were now standing up with them, the people who had seen the paralytic healed. They just wanted Peter to agree to be quiet.
But Peter said, “Judge for yourself whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
That is what I want you to think about today: the power of speaking about what we have seen and heard, the power of being a witness to what God is doing. That is what we do when we testify about families that are fighting to stay together. But I want you to remember that this witness was based on healing, a healing done through the Holy Spirit.
Is our ministry of healing – is it adequate? We have been good in marches, good at standing up and giving witness to injustice, but what about our ministry of healing.
Every day we have fought cancer and diabetes. Hundreds of young people have learned ab0out preventing these diseases and taken what they have learned to the community. We are fighting to make the hospitals give care to those who have no papers. We have prayed together and we have seen that prayer brings healing.
I think we can do more in prayer and we should certainly be grateful to God for the healing He has done through our prayers.
We have seen the healing of families. In fact the witness of families against the law would not mean anything if they were not able to stay together with each other. And we have seen families under pressure stay together and work things out. But we have seen other families fall apart. WE have seen families fall apart over violence or alcohol or unfaithfulness. Are we doing enough to heal out families?
It has been wonderful to see La Fuerza grow, see them struggle and march together. But some of them couldn’t stay on course. Some of those we worked with are in jail today, unable to stay away from the culture of the streets. Are we doing enough to keep our youth on the path of righteous struggle and unity?
We are about the start the summer camp. One of the wonderful things in this church has been to see how alive our children are, how talented they are. And we have seen very young children become leaders.
But not all of our children are being raised with care. Are we doing enough to heal the way children are raised?
And are we doing enough to heal the disunity among our people?
Holy Boldness requires us to call on the Holy Spirit for healing. Experiencing the Holy Spirit means standing before God instead of the world. You don’t care what the world thinks. When you stand before God you fell the presence of an Almighty God. Because so many of us are without papers we are outside the law of man. But if you are outside the law because of unjust criminalization – you need the law of God. We have too much failure because we don’t follow the law of God. Lies tear up our facilities because we don’t live according to the law that says “You shall not lie.” We have a new generation growing up and they are getting into relationships but they are not following what God says. They hook up with each other before they even know each other, before either of them knows where they are going in their lives. We see young people’s lives torn apart in these relationships.
We have a powerful witness among our children, but we have too many failures.
Holy Boldness requires us to “Call on the presence of God”. I recall seeing the example of a certain pastor. A young man was at a crossroads in his life. His girlfriend was pregnant and he had to decide whether to stop dealing drugs, to stop killing, to get a job and support his child. He asked the pastor for advice, for help.
Now I have often been in the place of this pastor. And I have often tried to talk with such a young man and give him good advice. But that is not what this pastor did.
The pastor told him to “Speak to the Lord first – then we’ll talk”. He said get down on your knees and pray and confess your sins and your problems and ask for help. Be honest before God and then we can talk and then I can help you. But you have to know the Lord first.
I think I am wrong and I think that this pastor was right. I think maybe that is a mistake we make as a movement. You know they say you can’t help someone who doesn’t want help, who won’t help themselves. That is why we need to go first to the Lord, go before the Righteousness of the Lord, confess our sins and be honest with ourselves. This pastor was saying first, tell them first go before God; get on your knees before God. I don’t think we do enough of that. We need, in the words of 1 John, to want to “walk in the light, in the footsteps of Jesus.” We need to know God in whom there is no darkness. Then we can help each other.
When Peter and John came back, when they had been released, they joined together as a community and prayed together, prayed in thanksgiving that God had had them released, they recognized how the Lord had worked – and the room shook with the Holy Spirit. As we begin again our movement, as we begin to organize our ministry, let’s remember what the movement of Jesus was all about.
When the ministry of Jesus began, John was carrying out his movement of baptism. He was baptizing thousands of people in the river. It was a mass movement, but a movement where each person made a commitment. Each person repented of their sin, and each person received forgiveness directly from God. It was an act of resistance. This movement challenged the authority and the hypocrisy of the priests and they killed John for his leadership.
Remember, in those days, they believed that only the priests could forgive sins. It is a little like the Catholic Church today, but it was worse. In those days it was said that only the high priest could give forgiveness. The priest went behind a curtain in the temple, to the holy of holies, once a year, and came before God. And he asked forgiveness for some of the people. John’s movement defied this idea, this method of control. John had people lining up at the river to repent and receive the forgiveness of God directly.
But when Jesus was crucified, it is said that the curtain in the temple was torn in two, and the presence of the Lord was opened to the people.
Now John had said, “I baptize you with water but one will come who will baptize you in fire and the Spirit.” When the disciples were in hiding and were visited by the Holy Spirit, giving them courage to go out and restart the movement, they saw tongues of fire over each other’s heads. And when they went out into the square to proclaim the truth about the murder of Jesus, they baptized people “in the Holy Spirit.” And three thousand were baptized that first day. They no longer needed the hypocritical church which kept them as slaves to the Roman Empire. When they healed the paralytic, five thousand were baptized in the Spirit. You see at this time in the movement, the movement was built on Baptism in the Spirit, where the people each repented of their sins before the Lord, committed themselves to the righteousness, to the light they saw in the Lord and they received the presence of the Lord. That is the meaning of the Good News of the Gospel. Repentance and Forgiveness is open to all. The priests don’t control it. This hypocritical government doesn’t control forgiveness – it is given freely by God to those who honestly repent.
But your family, your church, your movement can only be as as strong as each individual comes before God, repents and commits themselves to walk in the footsteps in Jesus. You can talk till you are blue in the face. “Husband, I don’t want you to be like that. I want you to change your behavior. Stop going out and getting drunk. Stop bringing me down into a low life.” But unless the husband comes before God himself, nothing will change. That is the same in our movement.
I am saying we have a good ministry. It has involved thousands of people and has involved people all over the country. We are going to continue this summer and grow stronger. But that movement depends on the unity of the family, the integrity of the young people, on the vitality of the children. I am saying we will only get as far as each of us makes their own personal commitment to God. We will only get as far as each one of us stands alone before God and says “God YOU are my judge. I am not being judged by the government or my friends. I will be judged by God. I want to be a righteous person. I recognize my sins, my weaknesses. If you say you don’t have any sins you are a liar. But if you go before God so you can really be honest with yourself. Each person that does that, that feels the Holy Spirit, the presence of God, each person that steps in to the light, that says I am not perfect but I want to walk now in the light…when those persons come back together, they will have the Holy Spirit together. Those who are weak will become strong; those who are divided will be unified.
In the midst of our ministry, of our movement, there must be a baptism in the Holy Spirit – Let it begin today.
Today, we call on the Holy Spirit. Today we are no longer afraid to go directly to God – to help us follow the law, to help us walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to walk in the light!
THE SCRIPTURE OF PENTECOST
Acts 4: 1-11 Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’
Acts 4: 13-22
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
Acts 4: 23-31 The Believers Pray
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
John 1:5-2:6 Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Love and Hatred for Fellow Believers
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.