Posted by on May 23, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Beginning

Welcome to worship on this 7th Sunday of Easter. We are going to be celebrating Jesus’ ascension that occurred 40 days after His resurrection. Yes…there is a day that celebrates only the Ascension, but, since we are in our current situation, we will celebrate that glorious day today along with the 7th Sunday.

There are two texts one from Luke and the other from Acts that describe the ascension and the disciples’ reactions in two different ways. The gospel text in Luke reflect the last comments that were attributed to this gospel and then Luke continued the story in the first chapter of Acts. I will read both of these texts for consideration today. The texts are: Luke 24:44-33 and Acts 1:6-14. Also a part of the 7th Sunday of Easter is the prayer Jesus prayed before his arrest. That text is found in John 17:1-11 and I will also quote a portion of it today.

At this point in the life of Jesus and his disciples, he had been with them for 40 days after his crucifixion and resurrection. He had appeared to them in the upper room several times and he appears to them again in the text from Luke 24. His appearance was real and not a vision. He asked the disciples to also touch him and he ate with them. Luke states that the disciples were shocked and disbelieving when he appeared.

Jesus continued to teach them and in this section, we find that He opened the minds of the disciples to His mission here on earth. In doing this, He showed the disciples that all that happened to him was part of a divine plan. And then, He led them to Bethany and blessed the disciples and was carried up to heaven.

What do you think these disciples were thinking? How amazing it must have been to watch Jesus ascend to heaven! They returned to Jerusalem and then I would expect that reality hit them. Now what? They were to wait in the room in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come to them. It was an event that we call Pentecost…or 50 days after Jesus crucifixion and resurrection. We find the disciples going to the temple for worship and praise after what they had experienced.

In the text from Acts, Luke includes a portion where the disciples were asking if this was the time Jesus would restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus replied that the time was not for them to know. Rather, he told them that they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit and would be witnesses to the ends of the earth. Jesus was telling them that this was their beginning of God’s purpose to bring salvation to all the earth.

It was now that Jesus removed from their minds and purpose the geographical boundaries. The disciples were to go to ALL people. They were commissioned to “go out”…like ripples in a pond. In the Acts text, the disciples were with Jesus on Mount Olivet when he ascended…and then they returned to the room in Jerusalem to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit. The Acts text names all those who were all praying together…even the women who had been involved in Jesus’ ministry as well as his mother and family.

After the disciples realized who Jesus was and had their minds opened…they prayed, they went to the temple to worship, their fear appears to have left. They knew that after the Holy Spirit had been given to them, they were to leave Jerusalem and go out to spread God’s words to the rest of the world. Their new mission was beginning.

It isn’t so very different with us in our time right now. We have had to distance ourselves from people and things for many weeks. It hasn’t been an easy time for us as we need to be with people. We need to feel some freedom to move about safely in the world as we knew it before the middle of March. We are not happy being apart for Sunday worship, even though we have discovered various new possibilities for worshipping our Lord. We still miss being with our family and friends in worship.

But we, too, are at a beginning. With various aspects of our world beginning to open up, we feel a sense of relief that life will begin again. However, it possibly will not be as we knew it before. There will be requirements for maintaining safety for ourselves and those helping us out.

Some things we look forward to during the summer, such as County Fairs, State Fairs, swimming, parks being totally open, playgrounds being open, coming into restaurants and seeing them packed full may not be a reality for awhile. How about sporting events without all of the crowds? Can we just be joyful in eating at a restaurant, no matter how empty it looks? Can we be thankful for changes in our “normal” experiences?

Are we going to be able to accept everyone wearing a mask for awhile? Are we going to refrain from criticizing someone for their need to keep themselves safe? How are we going to help our neighbors during this renewal time, for that is what it really is. Our actions will reveal that we are God’s child in the care and acceptance of others.

Just as the disciples were sent out to minister to the world and be the ripples in the world…our mission is just the same. It may not be a wave…but more like a quiet ripple that will speak louder than the wave.

Jesus understood the beginnings that his disciples would have. He prepared them for this event and he prepares us every time we read His word and pray for His help and direction in our lives. He will help us maneuver this new normal for us all.

In the text from John 17, Jesus prayed for himself and the glorification of the Father through the son. “glorify your Son so that the son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people.” (Verse 1-2) In the prayer, he states that eternal life begins when people know the Father through the Son. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ who you have sent.” (Verse 5) Think on that for a moment. Eternal Life begins when people know the Father through the Son. What an assurance for us!

Then, Jesus begins to pray for the disciples, or as the prayer says, “those whom you gave me from the world.” He tells the Father that He has given them the same words that He was given and that they received the words and know that Jesus came from the Father and believe that Jesus was sent to them.

The following verses from John 17:10-11, Jesus is praying for the disciples and all believers and are words that we can find comfort and protection in. “All mine are yours and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

What comfort this is for us right now! We have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We listen to his teachings and understand them to go out and minister to the world. We believe in God who gave us life and gave us Jesus and know that we are protected and guided by Him.

God will help us work through our “new” beginnings in these times. He will guide us in doing the work as His disciples in His world. He will protect us as the days go one. He is with us right now, supporting and comforting us in all of our varied experiences and feelings during these days.

Dear Lord….thank you for the promises and protection you give to us, your disciples here on earth. Thank you for helping us through these past weeks and for your guidance as we progress on to make a difference in your world. Thank you for guiding us. Thank you for your forgiveness and grace that you bestowed on us through your Son, Jesus Christ.

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