I told LeAndra before our service started that this is a weird Sunday in the Church year. It might not seem like it is, but it is because we are walking in this small time where we don’t fit into one season or another.
You might note that our hymn board reads as the Seventh Sunday in Easter. During Easter, we are on a journey with Christ after his resurrection. Yet, Thursday was the day of the Ascension, when Christ returned to the right hand of the Father in heaven. But, we are not to Pentecost yet where we receive the Advocate (or the Holy Spirit). That is next Sunday.
So we are in this strange time, when Christ as left us again and again we are not sure what to do.
This season we have been on a journey, which started with the miracle of the resurrection quickly leading us to seek a better understanding of who God is in our time and our place and who God is calling us to be with opened eyes, ears, and hearts. We have heard that this journey is not going to be easy. We have heard that it is not all about us, it is not our work but rather the Holy Spirit working through us and our baptismal promises that will bring forth the kingdom of God.
Our text today does not lead us too far off our journey, because the disciples were told by Christ to continue his work.
When I ran track in seventh grade there were a few times that I was on the relay team. The person you are passing the baton to gets started, puts their hand back, and you come up behind them running a little bit further and hand it off to them.
To be honest, that is essential what the Ascension was suppose to do. Christ prays to God that we have the strength (endurance) to continue forth with the proclamation of the Word; our actions of justice, compassion, and mercy; and our love and service to other people.
But, did you notice what the disciples are doing in our Acts (of the Apostles) text today? They said good-bye to Christ after asking when he would establish his kingdom. Then, we find the disciples in the same place we found them after the crucifixion… a upstairs room praying.
I do not know whether to be saddened or comforted by the idea that we, as humans, always go back to out default comfort spaces. We do not know what to do. We asked Christ about when the kingdom will come, when it will be established, but Christ gave us one of those weird (cryptic) answers that “you do not know the time or the place, but you are suppose to work towards it”. It is hard for us to hear and we know from hindsight that the kingdom would not be established the next day.
The author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles wrote about a banquet in heaven. The disciples want to know when this banquet is going to happen.
Yet, we hear this morning in John’s account of the Ascension that the kingdom is not of this world. It is not our human leaders that will bring it forth.
Luke and John had access to the Gospel of Mark, which emphasizes that the kingdom has come, it is near (as it breaks through in glimpses from time to time), and not yet fulfilled.
Our texts have us in this in-between place between Christ giving us a mission and us getting the motivation to do it. My question is how often are we, as individuals and the Church, also in that upstairs room praying ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’. We pray it each week (in worship). Yet, how often do we find ourselves in that upstairs room, praying that prayer without the motivation and drive to go forth and proclaim the Word? to act with justice, mercy, and compassion? to love? and to serve? How often do we default to our comfort zones and struggle to push, challenge, or attempt to step outside of it?
Canyon, my cousin, lives daily by the phrase ‘do at least one thing everyday that scared you’. She is not (usually) talking about something that actually terrifies you, but something that makes you have to step outside of your own comfort zone because that is the only way to experience growth. The Time after Pentecost (beginning after next Sunday) is all about healing, growing, and learning in God (who calls us out of our comfort zones).
We are in this in-between time. This Meme was shared on Facebook yesterday, which really drove home to me what I was seeing in our texts and this message.
(shared from Clergy Coaching Network)
“Sometimes I want to ask God why He allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it, but I’m afraid He might just as me the same question”.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) motto is “God’s Work, Our Hands”. We can not do much of that when we are hiding in the upstairs room.
So, what does this look like in our world?
We see it on a regular basis, often it is those small acts of generosity that we do not think about again.
Not this past Wednesday, but the Wednesday before, Gloria Dei and our conference prepared 70 Ziploc (1 gallon) bags to give to the homeless we see, 45 backpacks or re-usable carry bags that also included hygiene items, and 7 purses (122 care packages in total).
One way that we can do what Christ has told us to do is to go out into the world, take these packages, and challenge ourselves to have a conversation with the person receiving it. Some of the best stories I hear is when people briefly reach outside of themselves (their comfort zones) and engage the other person. I have heard several of those stories during my time here at Gloria Dei.
My challenge for us to seek opportunities to live out our baptismal calling even though we may be in this time of uncertainty because the kingdom has not come yet, Christ is at the right hand of the Father, and (according to the Church year) we, as the disciples, do not get the Holy Spirit for another week.
But, like the relay runner, we can get a little bit of a head-start before the Holy Spirit catches up to us. It sounds silly, but it is a perfect analogy for what we are called to do, who we are called to be, even in this in-between Sunday because often we feel that we are in that space anyways.
I brought some of the care packages to the narthex and there are still plenty downstairs. I encourage you to take one, to give it out to somebody, and to engage them. That is my challenge to us this week.
The scriptures were Acts 1: 6-14 and John 17: 1-11.
It was originally preached on May 28, 2017 at Gloria Dei Lutheran (Kelso, WA).