Narrative Lectionary Reflection
April 19, 2020
Read: Acts 1:1-11
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, twenty years from the year 2000 to be exact. Thirty doesn’t seem so old when you’re 50. 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.
As a child looking at the future, the year 2000 felt like an eternity. While I was waiting for eternity, 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 the first chapter of Acts we see Jesus giving a final talk to his disciples. He had risen from the dead and now he was ready to ascend into heaven. He tells his friends to stay in Jerusalem and wait for God.
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.
What was Jesus telling them to wait for? What was going to happen? Jesus wasn’t telling them to wait for revolution, for the Romans to be sent packing. No, they were to wait for something much bigger. They were to wait for something that would spread beyond Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth. But what was it?
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.
We learn that the disciples 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 in store for them next even though they didn’t know what that next big thing was. In Acts 2 we see the Holy Spirit entering the Upper Room and changing the disciples forever. But in the meantime they did things like prayer and choosing a replacement for Judas. They lived their lives being faithful to their friend Jesus.
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.
The 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 to tell about the good news that is Jesus.
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.
Dennis Sanders is the Pastor at First Christian Church of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He’s written for various outlets including Christian Century.