Greetings all, here is your e-votional for the week…
“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’”-Luke 24: 44-49
One reason I have always been bad at sports is that I don’t track the ball well. I often take my eyes off the ball, so to speak, and in so doing I make mistakes. I drop a pass in a basketball game. I hit the tennis ball off the frame of the racket. I kick a tree instead of the soccer ball (that happened in India). This is something we do in the Church as well. What do I mean? Well, let’s consider the penultimate story of the Gospel of Luke.
Above you read the last words in the Gospel of Luke before Jesus ascends into heaven, leaving the earth for the final time. They place quite the coda on his resurrection and they do something else which is very important, they pull us into the story. Prior to this, Jesus has appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and he invited them to touch him. He fed them broiled fish and he ate in their presence. In short, most of the resurrection stories in Luke have gone to lengths to demonstrate things about Jesus; first that he was back, and second that he had a physical body and was not a ghost.
As the resurrection stories wrap up, the focus shifts away from Jesus and toward his Church. In those days Jesus’ Church hadn’t really been established but the seeds had been sown. And those seeds were not much to see. There were a handful of skittish, slightly doubtful followers upon whom he was going to rely. And so he did several things for them at the end. First, he reminded them that all this had been foretold. It was important for the Church to have the story of Jesus held in context of the greater story of what God has been doing in the world all along. Second, Jesus said something specific about the disciples. He said they were witnesses. They would be the ones people would look to for verification that these prophecies had been fulfilled. Then, finally, he promised them Pentecost, and it is on the latter point that I wish to linger.
Easter is over for us, at least for another year, and now we are on the road to Pentecost, something we will celebrate on May 20. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church and it is that to which Jesus was pointing here at the end of Luke. But this also is an important reminder of our identity. We live not only in a post-Easter world, but also a post-Pentecost world, and that means that anytime we gather as the Church we do so in the knowledge that the Spirit is likely about its business in our midst. This is something I feel we often forget. We tend to think that our work is oriented toward ourselves or our own needs, or that our work is somehow about what we can accomplish. These things are not true. We are about the work of Jesus Christ in this world, and in this time and place. As we do that work we remember that the Spirit of God is in our midst helping us, guiding us, teaching us and challenging us. This has been true for centuries and it is not God’s fault that we often forget this.
Even at the end of the Gospel of Luke, our risen Lord was already pointing to the future. It is a future in which the Church has not been abandoned to a ruthless world, but rather a place in which the Spirit of God has descended upon a bunch of broken, fallible people, and kept us moving toward the inevitable advent of God’s Kingdom for all time. Let’s keep our eyes on the ball.
Prayer: Holy God, we thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Help us to honor this gift by slowing down and listening to your Spirit as it guides us. Please give us the faith to heed its call and share your Word in this world. We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.