Our readings for today are Acts 1:16-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36; I Peter 4:12-14,5: 6-12; John 17:1-11.
The reading from Acts is a favorite. Jesus ascends into heaven, and the apostles just stand there watching while two angels ask, “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” The angel’s words direct them to mission rather than worrying about when God “will restore the Kingdom to Israel”.
The collect for today whines, “Do not leave us comfortless but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us”. The Book of Common Prayer declares that the Holy Spirit is among us. These words are proclaimed to the newly baptized, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. We have the Holy Spirit within us, strengthening us to continue the work of Jesus. In today’s reading from Acts the eleven (minus Judas, the betrayer) are named, Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. Forty days post Easter the text describes them as continuing to reside in Jerusalem, “devoting themselves to prayer”. They were “together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers”. I wish St. Luke had given the women the respect they deserve by recording their names.
So today, I will share about one “certain” woman from my life’s story, F. Gail Donecker, my grandmother. Follow along and recall other “certain women” from your own life’s journey. My grandmother exerted leadership by doing the little things, the simple things, of life.
The untimely death of her father caused Gail and her brother, Arthur, to be raised in an orphanage. Her future husband also resided there due to the death of his father. They were married on 31 August 1918 while he was serving as a Master Sergeant in the army, preparing to go overseas for World War I. Following a brief honeymoon just off base in Illinois, she returned to Philadelphia to live with his mother. She was widowed when I was twelve. As I think of her life now, I know she was a “certain” woman, one of God’s saints through whom the Holy Spirit impacted my life, the lives of our family, and the lives of many others.
My Grandmother was the only one to watch over the three very active Donecker boys when our parents were out for the evening. She would play cards and board games. She would sit and listen to us talk about school, baseball and whatever else we were doing. Many times, while listening she would be darning socks or mending clothes. Finally, after we were settled in, frequently after using our beds as trampolines, she would bake cookies for us for the next day. She attended school concerts and piano recitals. Never learning to drive, she would take me all around Philadelphia on the trolley, the bus, the elevated, and the train where she used her Reading Railroad pass. Family dinners at her house were her delight. She also played the piano at Sunday school and organized church rummage sales.
People like my grandmother are not V.I.P.s, “movers and shakers” of society, yet they are “movers and shakers” of their families, churches and neighbors. They are the people who share their lives by being decent and good. They witness the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit that Peter writes about that allows us to know how God cares for us in spite of roaring lions that prowl, seeking “someone to devour”. It is the witness of “certain” often-unnamed people, that give us glimpses of the unconditional love of God. It is through “certain” people with whom the Holy Spirit lives that enable us to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.