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Waiting for the word to go
Acts 1: 1 – 14
Ezekiel 36: 24 – 28
Eight long weeks of lockdown, of isolation, of restricted movements. Everyone longing for the green light to get outdoors again and looking to the government in the next few days to give us the word to go. Many are feeling the stain with children restricted, and loneliness. Longing to get back to some form of routine. Those with gardens have run out of maintenance jobs. It has given my wife and I some enjoyment to walk around the neighbourhood admiring the pristine gardens. Ours has never looked so good.
In our scripture reading today, we find the disciples and Jesus’ family members in their own lockdown, their own bubble of isolation perhaps? They were gathered together after Jesus had gone. The friends of Jesus are named who are in the company of Jesus’ mother and his brothers. They were waiting on the word to go, to be Christ’s ambassadors, witnesses. To carry on his work, here on earth. They would draw immense comfort from one another, going over recent events and relating Jesus’ life together.
They had stood bemused together on the mountain top, but they would soon have the power of the Holy Spirit to inspire them to action. There would come a time when mourning would cease, and the job of witnessing begin. It takes time for us to recover from the loss of a loved one, and if the grieving process continues healthy then a new beginning a new life gradually comes into effect. It takes time to recover, there will come a time when it is right to move on
There is more than this natural grief process at work here though. The added ingredient of the Holy Spirit would be a gift to empower the disciples, indeed propel them into a new and meaningful life once again.
The period between the Ascension and Pentecost which is where we are today in the Christian calendar, offers a model for living in in between times. It is a time of not knowing, a time of relying upon the promises, a time of waiting allowing the promises to drive our devotion and our motivations.
For 40 days, the risen Christ had been teaching the disciples about the spiritual Kingdom of God. A kingdom of the heart that would cross all boundaries of race, religion, political sate. Now they were to be inspired to action. “Why do you stand looking into the sky,” asked the two strangers. Jesus will come back the same manner as he left. But then he was gone, and they were left alone to mourn his departure. I love that picture of the disciples looking up.
Open mouthed, gazing into the sky!
Now what are we to do? He’s left us no specific marching orders, just that we are to wait again for the gift of the spirit which will enable the disciples to go and be witnesses. It must have been very perplexing, yet exciting, not knowing exactly how this would pan out. They were just to go back to Jerusalem and wait for something to happen and the word to go. They had Jesus’ promises to hold on to while they waited. There are many times when we are required to hold on to the love and promises and commands of Jesus’ word. Times when we feel perplex, bemused, uncertain, anxious. We hang on to Jesus’ words. That’s what the disciples were charged with.
The first promise then brings us direction in life. Jesus will come back to restore his kingdom. Vs 11
History is not cyclical, not aimless, or random. There is a direction to life for Jesus’s followers. We know where we are going. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end of all things. Life for many is unbearably hopeless, pointless, devoid of meaning and purpose.
It is as ancient as in the book of Ecclesiastes. 1:2-3
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun?Ecclesiastes 1:2-3
The ancient writer encapsulates an experience of frustration common to human life.
We have a promise of Jesus coming in the future to establish his kingdom. That gives us direction, something to look forward to in hope. While we wait in our circumstances
We are to be witnesses to the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ. His ascension to the father’s side. You hear of men and women who feel they have no purpose in life when they are made redundant, or they retire. When the children leave home and the mother feels lost, devoid of her purpose in life for the past 20, 30 years.
We all need a purpose in life, a reason to get out of the bed in the morning. A routine if you like, routine which has been disrupted in no small measure these days. We are hearing about the concerns of mental health during this time of lockdown.
Jesus gives us a magnificent purpose. To speak of, to explore his kingdom. To work in his vineyard, building, labouring for eternity. He would give his followers his Spirit to empower them. They would be baptised, immersed, plunged in the Spirit of God. Of course, that makes us children of God. We belong. We have an identity as well as a purpose.
I remember my mother saying to me as I was growing up. “Never forget who you are and who you belong to”. “So behave yourself.” I was part of a loving, caring, supportive family with standards of morals and ethics. As Christians we are part of God’s family. We belong and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live as Christ commands us to.
The big questions in life, Who am I, Why am I here are answered in the promises of God. Way back in Ezekiel for instance and chapter 36 we read
I will give you a new heart and put my spirit within you. I will be your God and you will be my people.Ezekiel Chapter 36
Wonderful promise fulfilled in Jesus.
Do you remember the large bill posters advertising the one of our major banks? For those O.M.G Moments, emergency cash.
Have you noticed how often people will exclaim if they are excited, shocked, “Oh My God.” I often wonder, what God are they appealing to. Are they appealing for help in emergencies? When people lose sight of the living God, they invent their own. In Ezekiel, the promise is to restore Israel to the place of God’s blessing. To rid them form the grip of idols, those things that we set out affections on rather than God. We have a precious identity as the children of God, loved, rescued, embraced. Sheep under the care of the good shepherd.
The Guild have a great motto, Quoting Paul, “Whose I am and whom I serve. That’s us all when we trust in God’s word.
We have : Direction, we know where we are going
Purpose, we know what we are about
Identity, we know who we belong to.
So the messenger said, “Why are you standing looking into the sky?”
Waiting for the word to go?
Let’s embrace the new beginning of church and get on with being witnesses!