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And then what?

by davesandel on May 25th, 2020

Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 24, 2020      (today’s lectionaries 1      and 2)

And then what?

Who was Theophilus? Catholic novelist Michael O’Brien imagines he is Luke’s adoptive father. Luke, away on business, writes to him often – in fact he writes the book of Acts to him. But disbelieving the stories, Theophilus becomes very concerned about Luke’s turn toward Jesus and away from the Greek philosophical truth he had been taught. Then when Theophilus travels far and wide to find his son, thinking to rescue him, he discovers instead that Luke’s epistemology, ethics and humility are deeper than ever.

Theophilus also discovers Jesus. And so it is a wonderful story.

As is the book of Acts, which begins here on Ascension Sunday and continues for one more week through Pentecost before the lectionary’s Reading One returns to its Old Testament roots. Luke is simply not satisfied with one book. In that first one, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up. And now the story continues with what happened next.

One of my favorite counseling questions is: “And then what?”

Jesus spent three years with his disciples. “I pray for them. The words you gave to me, I have given to them. Now these men and women are yours, and I am glorified in them. They are in the world, even while I am coming to you.”

In these final forty days Jesus met with his disciples and spoke again about the kingdom of God. He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, wait for the Spirit and the Truth. Jesus told them, as Jesus told Nicodemus, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman, that they would worship in Spirit and in Truth. Those words were about to excite the very air in Jerusalem. (See next Sunday, the fiftieth day after Passover. In Greek we call it Pentecost.) The winds were blowing, and the winds were here.

Will you restore the kingdom to Israel? Jesus was patient during their Shabat picnic on Mt. Olivet. You are asking the wrong question, he said. In fact, stop asking God any questions about his plans. The future is God’s, this moment belongs to you. So “I will not leave you orphans. Receive power and be my witnesses to the ends of the earth. Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, teaching them to do what I have commanded you. Let your hearts rejoice!

“For behold I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

And that was that. Then without warning Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him from their sight. Two angels looked at the disciples and asked, WHY are you looking up at the sky? Jesus is lifted up, but he will return in the same way.” He is not here, he is risen! He is with you always. Let your hearts rejoice.

They looked at each other, confused, and then even the angels were gone. The disciples really had hoped Jesus would be always there to hug them and be fed fish, ask them to put their fingers in his wounds and roll his eyes at their bad jokes. But no. Instead as he said, they would have to settle for his presence “in Spirit and in Truth.”

Live into those words, folks.

And so they returned to Jerusalem – the eleven, Mary his mother, a few other women, a few other men, me, you – to the upper room, and they waited for the eyes of their hearts to be enlightened, when they could see for themselves the hope, the riches, the surpassing greatness that belonged to God’s call. They struggled toward what they would someday know as the sacrificial joy of sharing in the sufferings of Christ, never again ashamed to glorify God in the name of Jesus.

Who better than Peter to write those words?

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy. The King of all the earth is God. He reigns. Let the trumpets sound!

You have put all things beneath the feet of Jesus. In his body he is the fullness who fills all things in every way.

There are psalms that pour out celebration and burst with excitement (Psalm 47, Ephesians 1). And there are others (Psalm 27, 1 Peter 4) that call us to wait and rest, to have confidence in absence rather than presence, in suffering rather than celebration.

The Lord is my life’s refuge, and I only ask to dwell in his house forever. I seek your face, O Lord,, let me gaze on your loveliness. Hear me, hear me, hear me, oh God. Have mercy on me, a sinner. I know you answer me. I wait here and always for the goodness of the Lord, now and forever in your land of the living.

Stand with the disciples on Mt. Olivet as Jesus rises up and the angels chant their welcome. Celebrate, celebrate! Dance to the music!

And wait with them in the silence of the Upper Room. Hear, feel, taste, smell, see what happens next. Be still, and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be.

Breathe deep. Sleep with one eye open, alert but not afraid.

And then what?                 (Acts 1, Psalm 47, Psalm 27, Eph 1, 1 Peter 4, Matt 28, John 14 and 17)

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