May 30, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’” (Luke 24.45-49)
“He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. You will receive power [to enact His will] when the Holy Spirit comes on you. You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.’ After this, He was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid Him from their sight.” (Acts 1. 7-9)
Jesus told the disciples, and accompanying followers, to “wait in Jerusalem” for the gifting of the Holy Spirit as was promised. His teaching, as recorded in Acts, spoke to “not knowing the day nor the hour.” While it spoke directly to their question “Is this the time when You will come into Your Kingdom on earth,” it always connected the impending gifting with it all. The outpouring of the Spirit was two-fold in its “last day” connotation: the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning. When the Holy Spirit would be poured out over the disciples and subsequent believers in the believer’s baptism, it signified that the Age of the Church, the earth-dwelling of God’s Kingdom had begun. Joel’s prophecy about what would happen “young men will have visions and old men will dream dreams and all will speak with the power of God” was part of the teaching of scriptures which Jesus did during His forty day post-Resurrection sojourn. Joel’s prophesy would also be applied to the “Last Day” when Jesus would return and the truth of that moment would spread across the face of the earth like wildfire. The Church was not meant to put fires out but to fan the flames. They were literally, figuratively, spiritually “on fire for Jesus and the gospel of God’s righteousness.” So, they were to wait for ever how long it would be. Like Derby horses in the gates, the disciples would wait to run the race that was set out before them. I don’t think that is what Paul had in mind but I have a sneaking suspicion he would nod his head in agreement chomping at the bit.
So, there is the question of “waiting.” How often do we have a sense that “waiting” is intended to be passive? We “sit and wait” until something happens. There is little doubt that after forty days with the resurrected Christ, Jesus their Savior and their friend, the disciples were not passive. The quite literally took an “accounting” of their readiness. Their first act of preparation for “running the race set before them” was to get back to full strength. The disciples may have understood the imagery provided by Jesus choosing twelve individuals to personally mentor in accomplishing His purpose on earth. There were, after all, twelve tribes of Israel. Their jewishness was never going to be far from their consciousness. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that they were motivated more by the model which Jesus had set before them. Because of the death of Judas of Kerioth there were eleven disciples now in the circle. In some respect, their circle was broken. So, they took on the first order of business: prayer.
Ah, you may have thought I was going to speak directly to the choosing of Matthias as the replacement for Judas of Kerioth. But, while it was important to them, it was a prayerful attitude that informed their “waiting” period. Their circle now consisted of the eleven, the “women,” Mary the mother of Jesus and His brothers. I assume, though it is not mentioned at any point, that Jesus’ sisters were a part of the “women.” It is without question that the term “the women” referred to those Marys who went to the tomb that first day of the week to properly prepare Jesus’ body for burial. They accepted their role as “completing the duty” only to find that the “work of memorial” had been finished. There was no time for mourning because Jesus was not dead. He was alive and resurrected and well within the Kingdom of God on earth as He would be in Heaven. They were the first witnesses of the resurrection truth. They were not passive either. Though they may have been afraid to sound the bell that would start the “race to the finish,” their hearts raced and their minds stirred with this new knowledge. It commanded a decision. Jesus’ ascension into Heaven being taken up into the very clouds He would return in commanded such a decision as well. The angels told them just as they told the women “He is not here. He has gone ahead just as He said. Now go, yourselves.” And “go” they went back to the point of origin- the Upper Room. There they fellowshipped, discussed, worshipped and prayed- daily. Questions of “what, when, where, how, who” had to be offered continually balanced by the call to prayer. Whatever it was that they would decide to do as the appropriate response to Jesus’ command to “wait” was bounded and informed by prayer.
Significant that today is “Memorial Day 2022.” I do not plan these reflections ahead of time. They are moves by the Spirit which quicken my awareness of the Word and its application in my daily life and this ministry of reflection in His Word. As such, I have to speak to our activities for Memorial Day as we celebrate it in this country. It is a day of remembering those men and women who surrendered their lives to the duty of defending freedom, liberty and justice for all. For many, such a surrender to duty was at the expense of their own lives. Soldiers went off to fight for the cause of liberty and the pursuit of peace and some never returned to enjoy the fruit of that labor back home. I will confess my own guilt in misusing this day by waving “memorial” but enjoying the freedom, liberty and pursuit of happiness more and longer than I “memorialized.” Strange how we as a people have such a difficult time “waiting” for twenty four hours to honor the dead and keep the memory of what their sacrifice really was and really meant. We seemed to have adopted a similar mentality with all these “holy” days borrowing from a saying in Ecclesiastes, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die.” It was spoken in Ecclesiastes not as a saying to claim as honorable but one that showed the downfall of the human spirit in relationship to God. It was a statement of conviction. It was intended to bear the weight of awareness equal to the query of Jesus to His disciples in the Garden “Could you not tarry even an hour with Me?” Or two or three by which time, Jesus said “It matters not, the hour has come and the betrayer is at hand.” The disciples were not going to make that mistake again. Prayer was the key to their identity and their success in fulfilling the commands of Jesus. They devoted themselves to prayer and worship daily and to the breaking of bread in remembrance of Him. They didn’t wait until the Sabbath day or the First Day of the Week. They did it every day until the day which Jesus promised would come. And they would do it every day until Jesus would come again as He promised.
What price freedom, mighty ones of God? Spiritually and as a nation, what price freedom? Shall we devote ourselves to “eat, drink and be merry” or shall we practice the presence of prayer and waiting in honor of those who have died but live again in the Kingdom that knows no end? What are we waiting for? A reason to party and forget our responsibilities because it is “a holiday”? Or are we waiting for the move of the Spirit to come over us to lead, guide and direct us n the way that we should go which is the truth and the life God intended for us in Jesus as the Christ?
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. We offer to you our faithfulness to the task of living in memory of life and death which gives us the freedom to be who You have desired for us to be. It is for we pray In Jesus’ name. AMEN.