The Seventh Sunday of Easter (June 1, 2014)
Lessons:Acts 1:6-14 Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 1st Peter 4:12-17, 5:6-11 St. John 17:1-11
Prayer of the Day O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us and ascended to your right hand. Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and in joy, that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful prsence, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forver. Amen.
1.6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But 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." 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
The Acts of the Apostles 1:6-14, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
You Will Be My Witnesses
It was a roller-coaster ride for those disciples of Jesus. Early on he seemed to be a wise and insightful rabbi. Eventually the miracles and healings reveal that he is far more than this. Towards the end, they begin to suspect that he is the Messiah: the Christ of God. Holy Week, and his humiliating death on a cross between two criminals, are experiences that crush their hopes. But come Sunday morning, in an unexpected turn of events, it is reported that he has come back to life. Eventually he is standing in front of them, raised from the dead, and poised to fulfill his role as the restorer of God's kingdom. They are ecstatic with anticipation. Perhaps he is the Messiah. Perhaps God has sent him to institute a new order on earth. Perhaps they have been fortunately born; present on earth at the exact time when the Messiah comes to the people of God who have been waiting for so many years.
Without hesitation, they blurt the question out: "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" Is this the time when you will rally God's people around a new and dramatic beginning? Is this the time when you will throw the occupying forces of Roman soldiers out of Jerusalem? Is this the time when you will put these earthly rulers in their place? Is this the time?
His response, as is often the case, is far different than what they might have expected. Rather than announce what he plans to do for them, he announces what he plans to do through them. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
It is interesting to note that he doesn't ask them to be his witnesses. He doesn't declare that there is a pretty good chance that they will (or won't) be his witnesses. He says, clearly and definitively: "You will be my witnesses." With this commissioning, he sets the course for the next couple thousand years. How will the word continue to go out about the good news that stands at the heart of his life and his ministry? It will happen through those faithful ones who have experienced the presence of the risen Christ, and whose hearts have been touched by the power of the Holy Spirit. As this word is proclaimed, the kingdom is being restored. Through them and for them. They will, indeed, be his witnesses.
And so it continues to be the same in our day. The kingdom is restored as our hearts are touched by the power of the word, the presence of the risen Christ, and the movement of God's Holy Spirit. Empowered in this way we, like them, become his witnesses. With our words and our actions we, like them, are the vehicles through whom he works to restore the kingdom.
May we draw near to his presence as it comes to us in word and sacrament and, like our first century ancestors, be faithful in the calling to make a witness to the world of his love and his grace.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What must the disciples have expected from Jesus, as God's Messiah?
- How do the events of Holy Week change the way they thought of him?
- How is their ensuing devotion to prayer a response to his promise of the coming Spirit?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When have I sensed the presence of Christ in my life?
- What opportunities have I missed to offer a witness of my faith, and the presence of God in my life?
- When have I been able to witness to someone, in a way that encouraged their faithfulness?