Second Sunday of Easter
April 3, 2016
First Christian Church
When I was about seven or eight I would start to think about the year 2000 and what life would be like then. I remember figuring out how old I and my parents would be when we entered the 21st century. I was going to be 30 years old. Looking from the late 1970s and early 80s, that seemed so long away. I couldn’t imagine being an adult, especially an adult of such an age.
Of course I am speaking to you on the other side of the year 2000, sixteen years to be exact. Thirty doesn’t seem so old when you’re 46. But that doesn’t mean I’m not wondering about the future. When I opened up my IRA account, I picked one of the date specific accounts. I picked the 2034 fund which is the year I turn 65. That seems a long way off, but we’ve played this game before.
When I was a child, and looking at the future, the year 2000 felt like an eternity. In the meantime, I lived my life. I went to high school in 1983. In 1987, I graduated. I went to college and then moved to Washington, DC in 1992 for a few years. I moved to Minnesota in 1996 and started seminary in 1997. I went on my first trip to Europe in 1998 and then China in 1999. Before I knew it, I was there, the year 2000 was a reality. While I was waiting for this big date to happen, I still had things to do; to go to school or to work; to meet new friends and loves, to move to new places, to travel around the world. I didn’t just sit there waiting for this magical date, life had to happen.
In our text today, we see Jesus giving a final talk to his disciples. He had risen from the dead and now was ending his ministry. He tells them to stay in Jerusalem until God provides a special gift to them.
Now, you have to wonder if the disciples were a little bit nervous when they heard that. This is only mere days since the religious leaders and the Roman leadership had arrested Jesus and put him to death. Would the leaders come after them as well? They might have been tempted to hit the road and find a safer place.
When Jesus is done talking, one of them asks if he will restore the kingdom of Israel. This text makes the disciples look like fools, at least at first glance. Here Jesus was talking about big things, and they are concerned about getting rid of the Romans.
But maybe we are judging the disciples a bit to harshly. If Jesus was telling them to wait, they had to wonder: wait for what? Maybe this meant that Jesus was going to do something to remove the Romans. They were waiting for something, but it was the wrong something. Jesus wasn’t telling them to wait for revolution, but to wait for something else. Instead they were to wait for some power, something that would spread beyond Jerusalem.
But before they could ask for clarification, Jesus is taken up and out of their sight. It’s then when two young men tells them to stop looking up. Jesus will return, but you have work to do. You will wait, but things have to be done.
When read the last three verses of our passage, what we learn is that they went back to town and devoted themselves to prayer. They didn’t just mope in their rented room, but began to prepare for what God had instore for them next. We find that out in chapter 2 when the Holy Spirit is sent in to this Upper Room. But in the meantime they did things like prayer and choosing a replacement for Judas.
Sometimes much of what happens in a church, at least in America, is focused on the future. If we get more people as members, then we can start doing some things. If we had more money in the bank, we could have a great choir. If, if , if, if. We tend to think that if we have something, then we can really start doing ministry.
God is calling us, like the disciples to wait for his return. But that doesn’t mean that we drop everything and do nothing, or do the wrong things. Jesus told his disciples that there was still work for them to do after he left.
They disciples were to be Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the known world. And on Pentecost, this became true. They were pushed to witness to Jesus in cities and towns far beyond Israel. They invited everyone to meet Jesus, even long after he ascended into heaven. Christ would return, but in the meantime they had work to do. They had to be a witness to Jesus, telling them about what he was like and the difference he made in their lives.
Jesus is still calling us to this. We wait for Christ’s return. We have no idea when that will happen, but we wait for it. But in the meantime, we have work to do. We have people to feed. We have people to help get clean water. We have people who don’t know that God loves them and we seek to tell them. As church, we are called to be a community of witnesses, people who have seen Christ and know the difference Jesus has made in our own lives. We are called to be Christ’s witnesses in Mahtomedi and Minnesota, Wisconsin, the United States and around the world.
The slogan that has been used for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been that we are a movement of wholeness in a fragmented world. The world we live in is still fragmented but we carry with us Jesus in our hearts and we are to bear witness of Jesus, to give people hope.
On April 3, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. gave what was going to be his last speech. It’s called “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” Some have wondered if he sensed he would die soon, but he saw a promised land of racial harmony. I think he had a sense that he would not see that promised land, but we were to keep working and one day that promise would be a reality. Near the end of his sermon he said the following:
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
Unfortunately, we know how this ended. The next day, April 4, he was assasinated at the young age of 39. But he knew that God kept, God’s promises and we couldn’t wait for the promised land to arrive; work had to be done.
We wait. We wait for wholeness, we wait for healing. We wait for God’s return. But while we wait, let us take in the view, let us see what Christ sees. But in the meantime, we have a job to do, a life to live. Let’s get to it. Thanks be to God. Amen.