The message for November 21, 2021
Todays reading comes for the Book of Acts 1:1-11 and it goes like this; 1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying[a] with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now. 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
We have come to the end of the Christian year, Christ the King Sunday, and so we say goodbye to it. At the same time as we say goodbye, we are also saying hello to a new year by preparing for the coming king, through the season of advent and Christmas. Can you believe it, Christmas is just 5 weeks away? As I say the words Christmas will soon be here, I am wondering if you are thinking of Christmas with joy or dread when it comes to church. At church we often forget the whole purpose of Christmas is about how God showed us love by sending Jesus to be with us, to walk with us, to guide us and teach us what it means to love. Ultimately, going to the cross to prove God’s love in grace. So, I would like to think that as we prepare for Christmas, we will feel great joy for all that God has done for us.
Yet, there is a good chance many of us look at Christmas with dread and not because of what God and Jesus have done for us, but because of all the work we seem to put into preparing for Christmas. Over the years if Christmas has become a chore rather than a time of great joy than maybe our faith has become a chore too. I can personally tell you that throughout my ministry there have been times when I have forgotten the joy in serving and preparing for worship, Easter, or Christmas. During these times that I lost the joy, my work felt like a chore. When I have realized dread versus joy, I quickly turn to prayer to help me get back on the right path. For when I connect with God through prayer, I am reminded of the goodness that comes from following the Lord. Even during the times of long hours, knowing God walks with me brings great joy.
Looking at today’s reading you must wonder if there was joy for the disciples and the first followers of Christ. Many if not all of them followed Jesus for 3 years, watched him go to the cross, watched rise, then spent 40 days with him and finally watched Jesus rise to the heavens. Jesus was now no longer with them. At that very moment there was no joy. However, Jesus in those final hours told them all the power they would receive in the coming days. That he would send the holy spirit to be with them. That they would have the power and the joy that they knew while with Jesus.
So, as Jesus went out of sight, two angels appeared with the disciples and asked them why they were gazing up to the heavens. It was a simple reminder to them that it was time to get to work serving, not as a chore but from the joy of following in the path of Jesus and to be patient that all that Jesus had promised them would come true.
How does this affect us today? Well, over the past year or so Central and First have been working extremely hard at looking at new ways to minister to our congregations. Some may have looked at it as a chore, while others saw hope come from the work. This work has taken both churches on a journey. A journey that has been challenging and a journey that has taken us into uncharted waters. A journey that has challenged our faith and our trust that God is leading us on.
However, perhaps our journey is like the journey that disciples were on for three years. The disciples did not know what would happen when Jesus was gone, just like there is still uncertainty of how our churches will look in the coming years. There are questions still to be answered. Just knowing that our path is not completely clear to us may take some joy away from our calling to serve at our churches.
What you need to know is that the disciples, even though they were fortunate enough to have walked physically with Jesus they still had questions. Their path was not completely clear even after knowing and walking with Jesus. They had to have faith just like we must have faith to walk the journey that God put in front of us. We also need to know that just like the disciples, Jesus has given the power of the spirit to be in our lives too.
Last week both First and Central voted to stay the course of sharing with each other. There were those who felt joy from the votes, while others still had questions and struggle to see the joy. So, this means there is work to be done. For those who see the hope, work to keep the joy going. For those who are struggling to see the hope, work to help them while we all move forward together.
Today, I ask that each of you receive an extra dose of the spirit as you walk this new path sharing in ministry and in opening your heart to the spirit. I hope you will begin to feel the hope and joy for a better tomorrow.