GNB 11

May 26, 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)

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6.35-36)

TODAY’S REFLECTION:

In the biblical timeline of Jesus’ ministry as presented in Luke’s Gospel of the Christ, today is the day. What day, you may ask. The day of Ascension, of course, when Jesus spent the last of His forty days post-resurrection with the disciples. The prelude of Luke’s Gospel of the Church tells us this day had come. For us, it has come and its passing is intended to be significant to us and for us. While John remembers the promise of Jesus spoken in the final hours of the Last Supper, “I will never leave you nor forsake you; I am going away in order that I may come back,” the resurrection and forty days after was not the fulfillment of that promise. We know this because of the added assurance which Jesus had promised which was the gifting of the Holy Spirit on all who were called by the name of God and called upon the name of God.

[An aside: How confusing and frustrating it is to me to have our leadership, members of the legislature (both national and state) and Executive Branch, plead and enact “moments of silence” as an appeal for comfort from our HIgher Power and yet turn a deaf ear to such wisdom when it comes to debating and enacting the “laws of the land.” I believe I have heard some use in a different context to which I would apply here: working both ends against the middle. We cannot have it both ways, we either believe in God/god and trust Him with all our ways, means, mindsets, culture and climate or we do not.] Now, let me continue the reflection with my “without regret” digression.

The “I AM leaving now but will return” to which John alludes to and shares is a post-Ascension event. The death of Jesus and His resurrection at the hand and will of God was not “a leaving.” It was a continuation of His staying with them through the valley of the shadow of death. They experienced that journey in the hours and days that followed the arrest, trial and crucifixion (let’s call it what it was, shall we, the murder) of Jesus as the Christ. Fall back with me, mighty ones of God, to the seemingly forgotten Code of Righteousness or The Ten Commandments. In that directive, we can easily read and know God’s appall at the act of murder. We have attempted to soften the blow or increase its scope by transliterating it with “You should not kill.” No matter how “we” may want to read it, the word in its original language is “MURDER.” And that is what the temple leadership advocated for in collusion with Roman authority- the murder of Jesus. It was a violation of the, let me describe it this way, Jewish Bill of Rights. It was not intended to be a cluster of laws but a descriptor of the life of righteousness before and with God. It was the benchmark by which the people of God would be known. The people of God were guided first by the Schema which both Jesus and the temple leadership accepted and declared was the “first and greatest commandment.” In theatrical terms, the Ten Commandments might be seen as defining what a “command performance” would look like.

It was during that forty days, according to Luke, that Jesus gave His “command performance.” He reminded them, reprise, of all He had done and said in their three years of schooling. He retaught, re-explained, revisited, reviewed and revived His meaning and purpose as well as theirs. This was more than a pep talk. It was a commencement exercise of faithfulness after which they would be sorely tested. Jesus wanted them to be able to pass the test that was going to be given. For the disciples and followers of Jesus, Ascension Day was graduation day. They were now “it.” Jesus tagged them with His affirming love and a promise of success having sanctified them for forty days. Three years for forty days. Forty days for ten days. Ten days for one day (Pentecost) and one day for all eternity. It was time that the servants of God declare the greater identity of being “children of God.” They were children of God born out of the righteousness of God (born of water and fire) as well as borne by God (through the gifting of the Holy Spirit) into all the world over all the earth.

John remembers the words of Jesus saying “I AM going away.” Luke remembers “I AM gone away.” But, we must remember “I AM returning to take you to be with Me where I AM going. I AM going so that you will be with Me upon My return in a place I AM preparing just for us.” This is the message of the Gospel of the Church. This is the “Good News Broadcast” they were and we are intended to share in every season, in every time and in every place. God’s call is for all those in the world to be considered “children of God.” Following the horrible tragedy of the murder of 19 “children” in one classroom of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, I listened to a couple of speeches given declaring “Today, we are all citizens of Uvalde.” I certainly understand the sentiment and emotional appeal to connect the listeners empathetically to a community literally and figuratively “under fire.” But, for us as mighty ones of God, it is not enough to say “we are citizens of Uvalde.” The metaphor is not extended nearly far enough. If we have any feeling and sense of community in the midst of such tragedy, then we must address it now with an earthly address but with a Kingdom one. We are to be known as “children of the Most High God.” As such, we are committed to our first citizenship which is in the Kingdom of God. Whether the world cares or dares to recognize the truth of such a declaration, the inevitability remains the same as the “I AM” who left on Ascension Day will be the “I AM” who will come on the Last Day. Our accountability remains the same whether the date or place has changed. The question will be who will accept His invitation to “come with Me”? Are we preparing, proclaiming, pronouncing, promoting, protecting, providing and propelling others as being included in the promise? Today is the day! There is no denying its reality nor its responsibility. Tragedies as we have seen in Uvalde, Buffalo, Chicago, Minneapolis, Ukraine and how many hundreds and thousands of other addresses ought to call us to a higher sense of duty and responsibility to the Kingdom of the Most High who is the Father of His children born of water and the blood, fire and the Spirit, truth and love for this one hope.

What is stopping us? I think that bears reflection, too, as we all gaze into the mirror of this world and wonder when we shall see the end of it.

OUR CALL TO PRAYER:

Abba, Father, our home is with You on earth as it is in Heaven. Empower us to take Your Word as the critical voice of reformation and reconciliation and speak the truth in love. We know this world is not forever. We know, too, that we are called to make of this world a better place. Yours is the glory and the design that makes the most sense. We offer ourselves to You so that Your will be done and our will be Yours. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.

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