He Stood Up

The following devotional is to be published in the May 11, 2014 Virginia Advocate

SCRIPTURE:  Luke 4:14-21

 “He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him (NIV, Luke 4:16b-17a).”

I’m not sure what was in the air in our worship services a few Sundays ago. The children gathered for our “children’s time” on the steps of the chancel area. After sharing a story based on the morning’s Scripture lesson, I asked the girls and boys to stand up and pray with me. Not one child stood up. I asked again, this time with a “please.” Again, no one stood. I turned to the congregation and confessed, “I feel so powerless.”

One of the duties of a United Methodist Pastor is to serve as chairperson of the Lay Leadership Committee. I have a feeling that most pastors dread asking members of their congregation to take on leadership responsibilities for any number of reasons. There’s the fear of rejection; or the sinking feeling that the entire process is more about “filling slots” than matching gifts with ministries. It can truly be an exercise in frustration.

We long for someone to stand up and declare their determination to fulfill the Scriptures, in whatever way they are called by God. Not out of guilt, or a grudging sense of duty, but with a sure and certain desire to follow where Jesus leads. We long for more “here I am, send me” moments and fewer, “I’ll have to pass” excuses.

Before we can follow Jesus, we must first stand up for Jesus. In today’s Scripture passage Jesus stands up to proclaim God’s truth without regard to the consequences. He later calls upon his disciple Peter to stand up with him in the hour of his greatest trial – and Peter fails (John 18:2-27).

But the good news is that God didn’t abandon Peter, didn’t give up on him, did not leave him sitting in the dust of his despair. “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd (Acts 2:14a).”  Emboldened and empowered by the power of the Holy Spirit, this same Peter who denied his Lord over and over in the shadow of the cross, will be chosen to stand up before thousands on the day of Pentecost and proclaim:  “…God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah (NIV, Acts 2:36b).” Because Peter stood up, a Church was raised up.

Will we also stand up when Jesus calls?