Seventh Sunday of Easter
Readings – Acts 1:1-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36; I Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11
This morning we will begin with our first reading. The Resurrected Jesus is again with the gathered disciples, this time on Mt. Olivet. Together they asked him —
Master, are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel now? Is this the time? (The Message)
They saw themselves as the Messiah’s lieutenants, preparing to assist the Messiah Jesus to reign from Jerusalem. He responded —
You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you will get is the Holy Spirit, and when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be enabled to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the world. (The Message)
They were not to reign with him. Rather, they were to receive power to witness with him. They were to receive power and serve with him in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. These were the parting words of Jesus as he ascended into the heavens.
Among those gathered on Mt. Olivet were two men in white robes, two angels. In essence, they asked the others, what are you doing, standing gazing into the heavens? I think this is one of the greatest questions posed in all of the scriptures. “Why are you just standing here, and watching?’
Then the disciples left Mt. Olivet; they walked a short distance. They returned to the Upper Room, their safe place, their cocoon. The text states that they devoted themselves to prayers. They devoted themselves to good conversation, to good thoughts about Jesus, and to their prayers.
As in our own day, they were stuck. They needed to go beyond thoughts and prayers. They were just not enough then, and they are not enough in our own day. The two angels on Mt. Olivet knew this. Jesus wanted witnesses who spoke as he spoke; Jesus wanted people who served as he served. As we will hear next Sunday, Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, would set them on fire, would energize them, to be witnesses and to be servants of God.
The first chapter of our first text is the prelude to the Acts of the Apostles. The disciples, those following the discipline of faith, were transformed by the gift of the Spirit of Jesus into apostles, those sent out on a mission, sent around the world to act, to witness, and to serve. They moved beyond thoughts and prayers.
Their mission was not an easy street. As we know in the words of I Peter, it was to be a “fiery ordeal” that would test them, even unto death.
Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.
This passage from I Peter may sound familiar. In our 1979 Book of Common Prayer, it is one of the suggested readings for the service of Compline (p. 132), the service said at the end of the day. Roaring lions seek to frighten. Roaring lions seek to immobilize. Roaring lions seek to freeze us in our tracks. Roaring lions seek to limit us to thoughts and prayers. As people of faith, we choose to do the comfortable or to meet the challenge to push past the roaring lions of our day.
Do we speak up when the roaring lions want us to be silent?
This last week only one-third of our voices were heard in our primary election.
Do we speak up when public education is short-changed? Do we speak up when medical care is restricted by income? Do we speak up when food insecurity for all is limited?
Our voices need to be heard.
Do we act when roaring lions want us to be immobilized? Do we act to ensure battlefield weapons do not endanger our police, our first responders, and our teachers and school children? Do we act to ensure our drinking water is safe? Do we act to ensure our use of natural resources does not endanger the rest of creation? Do we act to ensure clean waterways, streams, and rivers?
During the Easter season, we have been reciting the expanded Baptismal Covenant in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The affirmations go beyond the thoughts and prayers of the Apostles’ Creed to include the pledge to act–
[to] proclaim by word and example the Good News of God… [to] seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbors as yourself… [to] strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. (BCP, p. 305)
Proclaim, seek and serve, love, strive, respect, these are strong words of action.
At the vintage of most of us here today, the challenge is, do we continue to proclaim and act on our mission? Thoughts and prayers when solely pursued allow us to accumulate dust and rust, and permanently immobilize us. Yes, my knees and ankles don’t work like they used to when I was coaching soccer. I feel it some days more than others. Still, I walk to help them stay functional. So, too, is being active in mission. We need to keep raising our voices with the words of Jesus. We need to keep serving as Jesus served. We need to keep moving; we need to keep walking with Jesus.
Again, from I Peter –
So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God, who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious they are! – will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does…Peace to you—to all who walk in Christ’s ways. (The Message)