Sermon Series: Seeking God
Message 2 of 5: The WIG and the Whirlwind
Scripture: Acts 17
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/19/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.
Read Acts 17
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. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Beroea as well, they came there too, to stir up and incite the crowds. 14 Then the believers immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and after receiving instructions to have Silas and Timothy join him as soon as possible, they left him.
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.” (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 19 So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.
22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’
29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 At that point Paul left them. 34 But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
The WIG and the Whirlwind
The circus is back in town, which is always fun. Sarasota is Circus City thanks to Mr. Ringling. What’s your favorite circus act?
This got me thinking about the circus and thinking about how to live a life that gives glory to God and fulfills the mission and purpose of God. When those ideas collided, I remembered the tightrope walker in the WIG and the Whirlwind. It’s an idea from a business book entitled The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling.
Doesn’t life feel sometimes like you’re walking a tightrope? We try so hard to not lose our balance.
You’re holding a balancing pole. On one end of the pole is the WIG, the Wildly Important Goal. Your mission and purpose in life. On the other end is the whirlwind- the realities of life. Your “you gotta’s”- you gotta buy the groceries, you gotta make the bed, you gotta go to work, you gotta feed the dog, you gotta… you gotta… you gotta. The whirlwind is always pulling. The whirlwind is relentless. It’s the things you gotta do every day to keep life moving along.
But then there’s this WIG, this Wildly Important Goal, that you feel called of God to do. Paul had a WIG. Paul was clear about his WIG. Paul’s Wildly Important Goal was to preach the Good news of Jesus Christ. Paul’s Wildly Important Goal was to plant congregations across the Mediterranean.
So Paul would walk, he’s travel the tightrope, preaching and teaching and planting. But there were these folks found himself debating. Paul was a rabbi and he loved to debate. It was his teaching style and strength.
And he’d have to figure out where to stay, where to eat, and how to raise funds. Then there were those Jewish leaders who were threatened by Paul preaching Jesus the Messiah, so they’d stir up trouble. They’d stir up the whirlwind.
Sometimes the whirlwind is just the realities of life, daily activities, and sometimes the whirlwind is from trouble. Paul would have to move on to another town.
So we’re constantly working for balance. We decide in order to keep our balance we have to minimize the whirlwind. To minimize the whirlwind we make resolutions. This takes moves us into another circus act- the spinning plates.
You know the Spinning Plates Routine. Rushing around fixing this and that and that and back to this and that… All of these resolutions are unsustainable. The plates are spinning or the plates are crashing. On or off. Working or not.
It’s binary, dualistic. Resolutions are the quick focused fix that rarely succeeds, rarely brings the lasting change we long for. They’re not designed for that.
Life is not trying to create balance like a tightrope walker. Life is not about keeping the plates spinning in the air. What Jesus invites us to is rhythm. A pattern of living, a way of being, a way of life.
Rhythm is a consistent groove, a pattern that flows. In music, it’s the rhythm that grounds the music and the engine that keeps it moving forward. Grounds and moves. How is that possible? It’s the mystery of rhythm.
We can make a home in rhythm. We can’t make a home in the circus. We can make a home in rhythm because our bodies are naturally rhythmic. Our bodies naturally bear the rhythm of breath and heartbeat. Our world moves naturally to the rhythm of moon cycles, seasons, and ocean waves.
We can make a home in rhythm. It’s sustainable, that’s what it’s designed for.
Paul had a rhythm to his life. We see the WIG and the Whirlwind but what we also need to see is the rhythm. Paul’s customs, habits, patterns. In Acts 17, you see the same thing happen three times. Paul reaches a new town. He walks around to get to know the people and customs. He goes to the synagogue and uses what they know to encourage faith in Jesus the Messiah. Then he goes to the public square, the marketplace, and shares Jesus in ways they’ll understand. Some come to faith. Some are angered, stir up trouble, and he moves on to the next town.
We see Paul’s outer rhythms of life but there are also inner rhythms of grounding and moving the Spirit through Paul’s extraordinary work. The rhythms of scripture, stillness, and self-reflection. The rhythms of worship, prayer, offerings, and fasting so he would be spiritually ready for his WIG, his Wildly Important Goal.
Paul’s Wildly Important Goal is Jesus’ Wildly Important Goal which is God’s Wildly Important Goal from the very beginning- Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
God is with us always, the Holy Spirit, the Rhythm of Life. We are made alive in Christ for in Jesus we live and move and have our being.(Acts 17:28)
Leave behind trying to keep balance.
Leave behind the resolution plate spinning.
Embrace a sacred rhythm to your life.
You already have rhythms. There’s a pattern to the way you get ready in the morning. Is it a sacred rhythm?
I can’t control the whirlwind of the middle of my day. But I can establish sacred rhythms to bookend how I start and end my day. If I let that whirlwind in too early by jumping on my phone to check my email or social media I’m in trouble. Same goes for bedtime. I won’t sleep well.
So I sat down to make a plan to bookend my day with practices that keep me grounded and grooving with God. What will help me fulfill God’s Wildly Important Goal for my life?
God’s WIG has not changed. It was God’s then the prophets’ then Jesus and the apostles’, then passed down through the centuries to us. Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It’s a huge WIG and I have my part to play. So do you.
Here’re the rhythms I’m starting today. They won’t happen unless I’m intentional.
My Morning Rhythm – Scripture, Stillness, Sacred Reading, Writing, Dressing for the day.
My Evening Rhythm – Walk/Move, Self-Reflection, Wash, Read for fun, Sleep
I invite you to be intentional- to sit down and plan your sacred rhythm. What will you do to stay in the grounded groove with God so in Jesus you may live and move and have your very being?
Simple Timeless Spiritual Practices to experience Jesus for Yourself
- CHOOSE a Bible Reading Plan. Click Here if you need a great one!
- ATTENTION: Read or listen to the Scripture. What word, phrase or verse captures your attention? Underline it or copy it onto a piece of paper.
- CONNECTION: What connections do you see to other scriptures? To your own experience or current situation? To the character or promises of God?
- ACTION: What is God inviting you to say or do? How will your life be different because of this scripture?
- PRAY: Have a conversation with God about what you just experienced.
Click Here for a post on ending your day with self-reflection questions.
Next week, I’ll be sharing about the spiritual practice of stillness.
Sermon- The WIG and the Whirlwind © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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