Witnessing: Working the Work God Has Given Us to Work

After a short break to begin adjusting to life as a retired priest, I have returned to weekly preaching.

A sermon for Ascension on Easter 6; Acts 1:1-11

We had been at Scout camp for nearly a week. Every day the camp leader was doing things for various groups of Scouts. We watch, we listen, we ask questions, we do the things we are asked to do – most of the time. Somewhere in all that I think we help. When we gather the next to the last morning, nothing was laid out. Our camp leader comes around the corner and just before we get anxious he calls us to follow him. We hike out of the Scout Camp through no man’s land, which was off limits, so we had never been there before, to the Cub side of camp. He leads us to a spot, explains that a group of new Cubs Scouts, who have never been to camp before, are arriving the next morning, and this site needs to be ready. We can see that everything that was needed is there, neatly stacked, ready to be put to good use. He looks at us and says “It is your task to have this camp ready for them when they arrive.” Then, he turns and walks up the hill into no man’s land. We stand there for some time, staring at the top of the hill. Then someone speaks up “Well it’s time to put to use everything we have heard, and seen, and been taught and practiced this week.” And after a short pause, we get to it. I won’t say there are not any challenges, there are. I won’t say there aren’t disagreements, there are. I will say we have everything we need. I will say that by nightfall we have done what we were called to do. And the next day those Cubs arrive to a campsite all set up just for them.

A couple millennia and 33 some odd years ago a young Mary accepted the calling of her angelic messenger to be the mother of the Son of God. Some 30 years later, two of John the Baptist’s followers heard a young rabbi say, “Come and see.” and they do. The next day this young rabbi says to another “Follow me.” and he does. For the next three years a growing group of men and women, Jews and gentiles, common folks (Gaventa and Petersen), perhaps a Temple priest, a member of the Sanhedrin, perhaps a scattering of folks from one prestigious group or another follow this young rabbi. They walked all over Israel, Galilee, and parts of Samaria. They watched, they listened, asked questions, went where they were asked to go, did what they were asked to do. They witnessed miracles; people healed, outcast restored to the families, untouchables reconnected to their communities, thousands feed, unbelievers become believers, outsiders reveal profound faith. They were uncomfortably close to direct challenges to Jewish authorities, and Roman overlords. They came to believe. They understood this young, itinerate rabbi, from nowhere, was who he said he was, the Messiah. They put everything they had into the promise he was going to restore the world. They believed everything would change. And then at the last Passover, he died. No, he was killed by jealous, angry Jewish political, business, and religious authorities. He died at the hands of a fearful Roman governor, who knowing the charges were false, authorized a crucifixion. He died abandoned by that hopeful band of ordinary folks. But then, he was alive again. No one believed the women who went to anoint his body. But then he showed up in the middle of a locked room. And did it again a week later when Thomas was there. For the next couple of weeks, maybe 40 days (Harrelson), they watched, listened, asked questions, and did the things they were asked to do.

The followers grew in numbers, strength, courage, and hope. They asked him “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). To their surprise, he answers, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority…” (Acts 1:7). But he is not finished, continuing

… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

After that, he goes up into the sky. The disciples are standing around looking up into the sky. Then suddenly two strangers speak up, Why are you staring into the sky?” Just this side of an uncomfortable pause they continue “This Jesus will return the same way you saw him go into heaven. Here begins the rest of the story. Here begins our story, my story, your story.

Today is the 6th Sunday in Easter, Wednesday is the feast of the Ascension when Jesus returns to heaven. The disciples want to know if now is the time when it will be like they think it will be. Jesus tells them that is not anyone’s business except God’s. He also tells them that there is more to come, that by the power of the Spirit, they are to be his witness here, there, all the way to the ends of the earth; with an emphasis on the ends of the earth (Gaventa and Petersen). Their witness is to proclaim the truth about the one true God against the alternative visions of all the nations’ cultural-theism (Harrelson) (Keener and Walton). Their witness is to upset all competing authorities, local, national, empire, religious, business, whatever, and to bring salvation to all (Gaventa and Petersen). Their witness is to promote Jesus’ message about the overarching presence of the kingdom of God (Gaventa and Petersen). Jesus shifts the emphasis away from the expectation of his imminent return toward practices of witnessing the gospel day-to-day (Harrelson). The two men description of Jesus’ return does remind the disciples of the end of days as written in Daniel (7:13-14) (Keener and Walton); so even if it cannot be known where, or when, or how, it is nonetheless a divine promise.

All these thoughts are divine forces shaping our calling as witnesses. They define what we are witnesses too; they define where we are to witness; and by implication, they define how we are to witness. But, none of it matters when all we do is to stand around staring into the sky; and there are an amazing number of ways to stare in to the sky. As a Scout the sky can look like a hill top; as a faith community, the sky can look like anything from a program we are excited about to a controversy we are angry about, or anything that diverts our attention. As a city, county, state, or nation it can be anything that threatens us, drawing us to seek other means of protection that diminishes our trust int God. You get the idea, there are many things that keep us from doing the work we are called to do.

You have heard my take on Godly work, drawn from the story of the man born blind in John 9. The disciples ask Jesus “Who sinned?” which is a staring into the sky question. Jesus answers

No one sinned. This man was born blind. Now is the time for us to work the works given us to work.

All those years ago, when I stood with my fellow Scouts, all it took was one of us to speak out, and then all of us began to work the work that had been given us to work. The Book of Acts is a series of stories of one person speaking up and the community beginning to work the work given them to work.

In the Ascension story, I see two challenges for us. Learning what is your, what is our favorite way of staring into the sky. And secondly, to follow the Spirit’s nudging us to speak, thereby unleashing the Spirit driven power which empowers all of us to be witnesses to the love of God revealed in Jesus to the end of the earth, which from Jerusalem looks at lot like right here and right now.

The Ascension is the story of Jesus’ return to Heaven. It is also the beginning of the story of our witnessing, our working the work God has given us to work.

 

References

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Keener, Craig and John Walton. NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Notes. Nashville: Zondervan, 2017.

Smith, Mitzi J. Commentary on Acts 1:1-11. 29 5 2014. <workingpreacher.org>.

Walton, John. Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1978.

 

 

 

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Betwixt and Between

A sermon for Easter 7; Acts 1:6-14, Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36, 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11, John 17:1-11

Today is a bit of a betwixt and between day. Thursday is the prescribed day to celebrate the Ascension, the story we read in Acts this morning when Jesus ascends into heaven to be at the right hand of the Father. It is one High Holy Day that many congregations do not celebrate because it is in the middle of the week; moreover; it floats around from one day to the next because it is 40 days after Easter Sunday and no matter how hard anyone tries when you divide 40 by 7 (the days in a week) you get a remainder, so Ascension Day moves around. The other end of betwixt and between is Pentecost which is next Sunday, when the Holy Spirit arrives (at least for Luke); a celebration many mark by wearing all manner of red clothing and others by commemorating the birthday of thre church. But today we are betwixt and between. But, there are at least three excellent phrases in the reading from Acts we should at least take a closer look at.

The first is Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel?

One commentary notes:

They have had three years hearing Jesus teach and witnessing his deeds of power. They witnessed the crucifixion. They saw or were told about the empty tomb. And lastly, they have had 40 days of specific prayer and instruction with Jesus preparing them for their work to come. And still, they have one more religious-political who’s going to be in charge question (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner; Harrelson).

To which Jesus says It is not for you to know; ~ its none of your business. His answer and the unexpected time since then ought to make it very clear, that God’s plan for restoring Israel is not what anyone expects, that it will not “erupt from the heavens in the twinkling of an eye” nor is it not for a select few to know (Wall). God knows what God is doing, that’s enough for us to know. Jesus goes on to say

 You have work to do here and now, go be my witness to the end of the earth, and I will send the Holy Spirit to help. (My paraphrase.)

To borrow a phrase from John’s Gospel story now is the time to work the works God has given us to work (Osvaldo).

After this the disciples witness Jesus ascend into the heavens. Now comes one of my favorite bibles verses: They stood there, staring into the empty sky. (Acts 1:10, The Message). How many times do we get caught up in some sort of speculation about what’s going on in the life of the church or about what God/Jesus/ Spirit is up to and just stare into empty space rather than get about working the work (Bratt)? There are good reasons, well at least there are good excuses. We might not have a clue what to do. We might be overwhelmed by the size of the task, after all the ends of the earth is a long way away no matter where you start. And there is plenty to be afraid of, threats abound; then and now. In places, Christians are physically threatened and or face death. In the United States, there is enough political instability to make us uneasy. In many places, including the Arkansas Delta, there is enough economic uncertainty, to distract us. And we should face the truth that we may be facing our personal fears. Staring into empty space may be just that, or it may be what pondering how to undertake what the unknowable is. Either way, we are not alone.

We are not alone because Jesus does not send disciples or us as individuals out to be witnesses. The ministry of continuing Jesus’ ministry is a task of the community of disciples that share a unity that mirrors the image of the unity between Jesus and the Father that John captures in Jesus’ prayer so that they may be one as we are one (John 17:11). The fact that there has always been intuitional factions does not mean there is not Christian unity. In Acts 1:7 Jesus lets us know that God’s plan is not about political or earthly structures. In John 17:11 Jesus lets us know that unity is relational. And if you go all the way back to the beginning, Genesis teaches us that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Remember we are Christians, and as Christians, we understand stand God as Trinity ~ 1 in 3 and 3 in 1, a divine model of community; therefore, we are made to be a community that reflects the divine community.

The final, and by chance 3rd, phrase to pay attention to today is in the final verse they were constantly devoting themselves to prayer. If you ever been stumped, and if you ever wonder what Jesus would do ~ the answer is pray (Logue). It is a lesson the disciples learned because prayer, constant prayer, is a foundational piece of their community life. As Episcopalians, we have an abundance of prayer resources. The oldest is in The Book of Common Prayer. If you look in the table of contents, on page 5, you will see 5 forms of daily prayer, 2 of which have 2 forms and also Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families which offers short forms of prayer for morning, midday, early evening, and at the close of day. Beginning on Page 809 you will find 70 prayers for all manner and occasions. If you ever need to pray for something go there, there is something you can use to help get you started; it is a wonderful powerful resource (The Episcopal Church). There is Forward Day by Day that offers a scripture verse and short reflection for every day (Forward Movement). There is The Society of St. John the Evangelist’s Brother give us a word that offers a daily email with a short reflection, and the occasional seasonal online reflections and forms of prayer (SSJE). From now till Pentecost they are offering Thy Kingdom Come in response to and in collaboration with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call to prayer (COE). We are often dismissively referred to as those people with the book. We are ~ those people with the book; a book of prayer, that is one of many ways we as a community can constantly devote ourselves to prayer where ever we are. Our prayer life is important, not because it lets God know what in our hearts, God already knows that. Our prayer life is important because it is how as individuals and as a community we do not let the current concerns of the world, or our passionate commitment to mission, replace our abiding relationship with Jesus. The oneness of the Father and Jesus is their abiding relationship. Our oneness with Jesus and the Father is our abiding relationship with them and each other (Wall). It only makes sense that the abiding place (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner) the Father has prepared for us is the same place the work God has given us to work is ~ right here, right now.

Jesus has ascended. The work we are to work is right here. And the promise of the Spirit is right around the corner.

 

References

Bratt, Doug. Easter 7 A: Acts 1:6-14. 28 5 2017. <cep.calvinseminary.edu>.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 28 5 2015. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Forward Movement. “prayer.” n.d. forwardmovement.org. <http://prayer.forwardmovement.org/forward_day_by_day.php?d=26&m=5&y=2017&gt;.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Jacobson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis and Matt Skinner. Sermon Brain Wave. 28 5 2017.

Logue, Frank. “Learning from Proverbs – Proper 18(B).” 28 5 2015. Sermons that Work.

Osvaldo, Vena. “Commentary on John 91:-41.” 20 3 2017. Working Preacher. <workingpreacher.org>.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

SSJE. Brother, Give Us A Word. Cambridge, 23 10 2015. <http://ssje.org/word/&gt;.

The Church of England. n.d. http://www.thykingdomcome.global. <https://www.thykingdomcome.global/&gt;.

The Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer. New York: Church Publishing, 1979.

Wall, Robert. New interpreter’s Bible The Acts of the Apostles. Vol. IX. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. X vols.

 

 

 

The Ascension Gap

A sermon for the 7th Sunday after Easter and Ascension: Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 97, Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21, John 17:20-26

The TV season is coming to close; I know because all the series are showing season ending cliff hangers; they want to leave us waiting; they are baiting us for next year. Angie and I just saw Star Wars VII and we are eagerly waiting for Episode VIII, that will likely be another year. If you did not know, the Empire was destroyed, and the Jedi are reforming under the guidance of Luke Skywalker. Rylo Ren, formerly Ben, Han and Leia’s son, Luke’s nephew, betrays Luke, under the influence of Snoke, the leader of the First Order, and all the Jedi students are killed. Luke disappears. The First Order is emerging as a new imperial force. Only a small resistance force stands in their way. Rey, a scavenger, and Finn, a disaffected storm trooper who desserts the First Order, join forces for survival. By chance they run into the resistance, many of the familiar characters: Han Solo, princes Leia, Chewbacca, R2D2 etc. are there. Near the end, in a dramatic fight, Han is killed by Rylo Ren. Not long afterward, Rey, who seems to exhibit the presence of the force within her, sets out and finds the reclusive Luke at the site of original Jedi Temple, here ends the movie ~ and we are left hanging (IMBD).

Six weeks ago the disciples were surprised by the empty tomb. According to Luke, the physician, not Skywalker, a couple of angles ask them “Why do you look for living among the dead?” (24:5) Since then there have been a number of surprise appearances. Thursday, 40 days after the initial surprise, Jesus ascends to heaven. Once again a couple of angles appear and ask the disciples “Why do stand around looking up into heaven?” Jesus has told the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the arrival of the Spirit. We will celebrate that next week on Pentecost. The disciples think Jesus is talking about Israel, and the Kingdom of David, being restored, so they ask “Is this the time?” He answers

“It is not for you to know the time, that is God’s business, but you will receive the power of the Spirit, and you will be my witnesses.”

Then Jesus ascends in a cloud. The disciples are left waiting.

Today we are waiting. Waiting is not a skill Americans as a culture admire or have, and it is something we try to ignore or overcome. If we are aware of the Church calendar we know:

  • Jesus is crucified
  • Jesus is risen
  • Jesus is back talking, eating, teaching,
  • Jesus is gone again.

I’m sure the refrain takes us to the Eucharistic acclamation:

 Christ has died,
Christ is risen,
Christ will rise again.

But just as on Good Friday, when we stayed at the foot of the Cross, now I invite us to stay in the Ascension gap. We are waiting between Jesus’ ascension and the arrival of the Spirit and everything that follows.

Note that Luke is writing after the destruction of the Temple. So, his readers are waiting, with disciples, for the arrival of the Spirit, in power, and they are also waiting for some sort of divine response to the destruction of the Temple, God’s residence on earth. Jesus’ teaching that Luke is passing on is that God’s and Jesus’ presence is less about geography and more being in relationship with us. In this way, Jesus’ ascension makes space for the Spirit to come (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner). Frank Couch notes that in waiting we should be cautious, and remember that God acts in God’s time, not ours. We should be wary and not assume that we have or can ever predict what God may be up to (Crouch). Wesley Allen writes that Jesus’ ascension emphasizes divine transcendence. It challenges us to deal with divine presence and revelation on the one hand and divine absence and silence on the other (Allen, Jr.). The Ascension, when Jesus says the disciples, including us, will be his witnesses, also brings us face to face with the reality that as disciples, we have some responsibility for what’s next. This time of waiting carves out space in time when we can join the disciples in pondering:

  • what it means to follow Jesus
  • what is it that we are expecting?
  • what does Jesus 2nd coming mean for us?

The disciples started by asking the wrong question. Are we asking the right questions?

How often and how do we stand and look for Jesus among the dead, or in any of the other wrong places? How often do we stare off into heaven for answers or a vision for the future? I suspect we tend to project on Jesus’ second coming the same kind of earthly values and desires the disciples were casting on Jesus as God’s Messiah, and perhaps on his ascension. As they were, we are overly concerned with the future. But it has never been about the future, or up there somewhere in some time; this entire story of incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension has always been about now, about God/Jesus/Spirit being right here right now (Jacobson, Lewis, and Skinner). How we are now, links us to today’s Gospel reading.

Today’s verses from John’s Gospel story are from Jesus’ prayer for his disciples at the last supper. We hear how Jesus prays that the disciples will be one as he and God are one. We heard about that a week or so ago. The prayer also reveals Jesus’s desire that through their witness, everyone who hears the story will be one, with each other. Luke leaves us waiting; John leaves us hanging between earth and heaven, between the past, the present, and the future. John also reminds us to be cautious about what we think we know, so we can be open to divine surprises (Lundblad).

One place to pay special attention is the misunderstanding that oneness means absolute conformity. Within divine oneness, there can be disagreements and squabbles (Hogan). The difference is how we disagree and squabble. The current political norm of attacking the person of an opponent is not an example of oneness. An open debate, where each party passionately expresses their belief and at the same time makes themselves vulnerable to be changed by the other, comes closer.

So, we are waiting, we are hanging in time and space. We are between:

  • the beginning of the primary season in February, the conventions this summer and the elections this November.
  • the ending of school in a week or so, this summer’s adventures, and the beginning of next school year, with new classes, new teachers, and perhaps a new school.

Our oldest daughter and her family are between completing their current jobs and moving half way across the county for her to begin CRNA school. The unexpected have already begun to appear, as they hang between times, waiting for the next phase of life to begin.

The Diocese is waiting; the Bishop is on sabbatical for the next eleven weeks. We hang between now and then, wondering, as does he, what God will reveal. I expect many of you are betwixt and between; hanging in time, waiting for something to end or something else to begin, or both.

I know the temptation to rush to the power of the Spirit and get the waiting over. And I trust the Spirit’s mysterious whisperings in these matters. However, this is a short sub-season of between. This is a time to stop. A time to wait. A time for:

  • discernment, (Acts 1:25-16)
  • worship, singing, (Luke 24:52)
  • and simply being in and looking deeper into the presence of God (Hoezee).

This is a time to attune to the surprising, unexpected next step God is leading us to take.

 

 


 

References

Allen, Jr., O. Wesley. Commentary on Acts 1:1-14. 2014. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Crouch, Frank L. Commentary on Acts 1:1-11. 8 5 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoezee, Scott. The Lectionary Gospel John 17:20-26. 8 5 216.

Hogan, Lucy Lind. Commentary on John 17:20-26. 8 5 2016. <workingpreacher.org>.

IMBD. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015). n.d. 6 5 2016. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2488496/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ql_1&gt;.

Jacobson, Rolf, Karoline Lewis, and Matt Skinner. Sermon Brain Wave. 8 5 2016.

Lundblad, Barbara. “Commentary on John 17:20-26.” 8 5 2016. Working Preacher.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

 

 

Joy, Worship, and Ministry

A sermon for Easter 7 / Ascension

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26, Psalm 1, 1 John 5:9-13, Luke 24:44-53

My favorite scenes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind are:

  • Richard Dreyfus’ mysterious sunburn he got in the dark of the night;
  • the spaceship blowing everything off the stage the first time it plays the three note sequence, and
  • the magnificent ascension of the space ship into the stars.

There is a similar scene in the movie Knowing as mystic creatures gather all the species of earth, two by two in the ethereal ships that ascend into the stars, just before the earth is destroyed by a massive solar flare. There are all kinds of stories about a hero ascending. Greek mythology tells how Hercules ascends to the gods to avoid death; Roman mythology tells us Romulus has “been caught up into heaven, and was to be a benevolent god for them instead of a good king.” In Sumerian mythology, there is the story of Adap ascending to the gods, escaping death. (Ancient Origins) No matter the age of the story something about seeing someone ascend to the stars ascend into the heavens catches our imagination.

The same is true in the Bible. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him. (Genesis 5:24) We all know the story of Elijah being carried off in a chariot and horses of fire ascending in a whirlwind into heaven. (2 Kings 2:11) Of course there is a New Testament ascension story, otherwise we’d never observe Jesus’ Ascension, 40 days after Easter. (Which is always a Thursday so it’s rarely observed in these times.) Matthew and Mark imply an ascension. John treats Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and exaltation as one event. But Luke describes Jesus’ ascension in short but significant detail. And, by the way, the Epistles also refer to Jesus’ ascension, especially Hebrews, from which we get the marvelous invitation to confession

Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14, 16)

Jesus’ ascension is also woven into the heart of the Christian tradition. In both the Nicene and Apostles’ Creed we hear:

… rose again according to the scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated on the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead

To be honest, Jesus’ ascension creates a concern: because some say Jesus has gone away, he’s not here anymore. However; that’s not exactly true. Luke’s tale ends:

And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when we were reading  through the resurrections stories; every time Jesus shows up the disciples are terrified. Today, fear has turn to joy, worship, and blessing. (Troftgruben) Jesus’s presence with God,  in divine glory, is the final assurance of our inheritance of redemption. It is the source of energy for the mission of the Church. We hear that in the collect appointed for the celebration of the Ascension that “he abides with his Church on earth,  even to the end of the ages…”

So, now we know a little something about ascension myths in the broader cultures, of ancient times, and today. We’ve touched on ascension stories from the Old Testament. We’ve noted the difference in how the evangelists treat the Ascension, from part of a single story to inferences, to a specific event. We’ve touched on the references to the Ascension in the Christian traditions of Creeds, Liturgies, Holy Days, and collects. We’ve even explored the question:  “Is Jesus gone?” And now we find ourselves in that part of the homiletical exercise where we are challenged to ponder “So what?”

Well to do that, let’s stop and take a look at where Luke is. Unlike the other Evangelists, Luke produced two stories; the first, his Gospel, about Jesus, the second about the continuing ministry of the disciples and the beginnings of the Church. The Ascension acts like a pivot; it swings our attention from the story of Jesus’ ministry, as Messiah on earth, to the continuing ministry, the witness of those who believe, to those not yet transformed. Ben Helmer writes:

The Ascension makes Jesus a universal figure, drawing us all to him, and sending us to be witnesses of the Good News. There is no time to ponder; Now is the time to act – together. (Helmer)

Br. Geoffrey Tristram speaks of this time as one when, as the disciples do, we know we can break the death barrier, because

The Ascension was the means by which Jesus was able to share the fruits of his redemptive love with us – share his victory over death with us. (Tristram)

I believe it’s a time we realize we can break the mission barrier because Jesus shares the fruits of his love with us.

Luke’s Gospel begins at the Temple with the promise of Elizabeth’s conceiving. Zechariah stumbles out of the Temple unable to speak. Those around him aren’t sure what’s going on; however, as readers we know “God is at work and something marvelous is about to happen.” (Brueggemann) As his Gospel tale closes, the disciples are gathered at the Temple, joyfully worshiping, and blessing God. Once again, we know “God is at work and something marvelous is about to happen.” (Brueggemann)

Sisters and brothers ~ nothing has changed, something marvelous is about to happen. The presence of the ascended Jesus continues to be a conduit of divine love and victory; continues to be a force for breaking barriers; continues to provide believers with propensity to change the world; and continues to goad us to act ~ now, with whoever we find a common bond. Yes, it means change, read the rest of Acts about that. Yes, it means risk, read Paul’s story. But it also means joy  ~ joy born of being in God’s loving presence, joy born of another’s life touched by grace and coming to know the shalom of God; joy born of one less division between God’s people. And I don’t believe it’s always giant mission projects, although there are plenty around. I believe such joy comes from simple one on one encounters; encounter between you, and the stranger of the moment. I believe such joy comes as we witness God’s love touch another. I believe such joy comes as we are touched by the other. I believe such joy leads to worship, leads to ministry.


References

n.d. 17 5 2015. <http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/ascension-heavens- ancient-mythology-001471>.

Brueggemann, Walter. Interpretation. Ed. Patrick D Miller Jr and Paul J Achtemeie. Vol. Genesis. Louisville, n.d.

Culpper, R. Allan. New Interpreter’s Bible, The Gospel of Luke. Ed. Leander Keck. Vol. 9. Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 2001.

Ellingsen, Mark. Ascension. 14 5 2015. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Helmer, Rev Ben. Sermons that Work. 17 5 2015.

Orr, James, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. WORDsearch, 2004.

Petersen, David L and Beverly R Gavenat. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 2010.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Tristram, Br. Geoffrey. Breaking the Death Barrier – Br. Geoffrey Tristram. 16 5 2010. 17 5 2015. <http://ssje.org/ssje/2010/05/16/breakingthedeathbarrierbrgeoffreytristram/&gt;.

Troftgruben, Troy. Commentary on Luke 24:4453. 17 5 2015. <workingpreacher.org>.