May 19, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to Heaven. This He did after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles [formerly disciples] He had chosen.” (Acts 1. 1-2)
“They gathered around Him in the Upper Room while they were breaking bread and asked, ‘Lord, are you going to restore Israel as the kingdom of God on earth now?’” (Acts 1.6)
I could add another verse to those above to help prepare us for today’s reflection. Doing so would continue yesterday’s step into the realm of answering the question “Lord, are you going to restore Israel as the Kingdom of God on earth now?” How I am being led by the Spirit to consider that question further impacts us in a way we may not have considered. If we have considered it, we may have done so and then dispensed with the thought. Strange how the Spirit works in and through our lives to remind us of truths from the past and make them new in the present. The Resurrected Jesus did exactly that from the very instant of being discovered, or revealed, at the Empty Tomb garden. When He appeared to Mary Magdalene she did not recognize Him. Perhaps the “Son” was in her eyes early in the morning on the first day of the week. Oh, that the sun would be in our eyes the first of every day of the week. When He spoke her name and not simply ask “Why are you crying?”, she immediately knew it was Jesus. It was not just a recognition but a knowing. It was then she could hear with clarity the words Jesus had spoken about these events and was speaking in that moment as the unveiling of the reality of fulfillment.
The husband and wife from Emmaus were obviously followers of Jesus of Nazareth. They may have been privileged to be in the Upper Room for the Passover celebration where JK, Judas of Kerioth, was sent out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, and where Jesus promised to send to those who were present the blessing of the Holy Spirit. They may have been house servants or part of an outer circle of friends encompassing the inner circle of disciples. Without worry about their actual physical identity, we know by their report of their spiritual identity. We know this because the moment Jesus took bread and broke it in table fellowship to bless it before God, they had a burning. That burning may have been “Jesus in their heart and soul” just as Mary Magdalene had “Son in her eyes.” It came to them that Jesus had been reteaching and reminding them of all He had given them in their time together before the cross. In doing this, He was reinforcing the same as proof positive for their time together after the cross.
All of that to direct us to the thought of “God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.” It is not a scripture but more a summary of how God’s will is effective, affective and critical in our understanding of discipleship. As mighty ones of God, believers and followers of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, we embrace the knowledge that God is working all the time. God is not stagnant nor static. God is dynamic. Even when we may not see it because something else is blocking our vision or distracting our thoughts, God is at work. God hears our prayers. God listens to our inner and outer voices. God answers our prayers. God moves in ways we may not expect or understand until we arrive where we knew we should be all the time. So, the verse I could add to those above would be this one from Paul’s writing to the community of faith in Rome: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him; those who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8.28) Remembering the question posed by the disciples with great hopefulness, I cannot help but wonder (suggested by the leading of the Spirit) if Jesus wasn’t actually answering “Yes.”
“Yes, but….” Jesus was, in fact, establishing Israel as the renewed Kingdom of God on earth. It wasn’t the Scribes’ Israel. It wasn’t the Pharisees’ Israel. It wasn’t the Roman’s Israel. It wasn’t the people’s Israel. It wasn’t the Israel of covenience or annoyance. It was God’s Israel as it was intended from the beginning for the reconciliation and redemption of the world. It was the Israel meant to broadcast good news for the sake of all people. It was the Israel called to be “the light of the world.” It was the Messianic community of faith which the past held to be a prophetic future. It was the Messianic community of faith which their present thought had passed in the Golden Age. They were looking for something new akin to “the good old days” and desiring that to be their future. But, that was never what God intended. It wasn’t about one nation as one world. It was always about one nation under God cultivating a spiritual community in the world but not of it. So, when Jesus said “That time will come when you least expect it,” He was declaring an “already but not yet” paradigm which was the Church, the New Israel. He was establishing Israel as God’s Kingdom on earth by preparing His followers, transforming disciples into apostles and giving to them the opportunity to “go and do likewise.” But, it is the “unexpected” revelation which makes all things new. It is when the Word of God that had been heard becomes the Word of God present in our time of need that the Spirit is seen as working. Truth is- the Spirit has been working all the time. The Spirit has been doing the work of the Father in wondrous, confounding, challenging and empowering ways. The work of the Spirit leads us to a realistic understanding of ourselves and God’s great love manifested in Jesus Christ. Our prayers are heard, listened to and answered but in ways we may not expect or immediately understand. That is…until we do.
I dare believe that in those ten days between Jesus’ ascension into Heaven just as He had descended into the grave of Hell and Pentecost when the promised Spirit of God was poured out, the disciples mulled over what Jesus said in response to their question. It was, in summary, “Not now but wait.” Ten days later, the answer was “Not now but wait no longer, go and be the kingdom of God on earth.” That is the answer which Luke promoted in both his gospel of Jesus and the gospel of the Church. It is the answer that defines us today. It is the answer which by the Spirit refines us today.
It is time, mighty ones of God, that we hear the words of Jesus as He broadcasted them to the circle of family and friends. They were like stones skipped across the waters of life leaving behind ripples reaching out, crossing over and making a greater impact than the One who started it. Did He not say to them “Greater things will you do than I have done”? Isn’t it time for the Church to “wait upon the Lord, go as the Lord (not as we think the Lord would go today) and broadcast the good news of salvation first? That truth defines and refines every action and thought which comes to humanity. Every action and thought is not intended to define and refine the truth. It is time for the “Son to be in our eyes” and “His word to burn in our hearts.” Let us hearken to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness” as our cause and trust the effect of that to be the promised “and all else that is needed will be provided.” Time to put the horse in front of the cart.
TODAY’S PRAYER: Father God, You have favored us with good news to broadcast in word and deed into all the world. You have made it possible for us to accomplish that which You have given. We believe that You will not put more on us that we are able to do. Nothing shall be impossible for us as we commit ourselves to priority number one! We believe; help us in our unbelief. We ask this in the name of Jesus our Lord who was and is and will always be our Savior and our Friend. AMEN.