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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, May 23, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Acts 1:1–11

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 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. While staying 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; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 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.” (NRSV)

Several things strike me as I read this passage that opens Acts. Among them is the disciples’ first query. It’s a universal quandary: “How long will we wait before we are restored and things are made right? Haven’t we waited long enough? Did we miss something in the fine print?” Surely there is a simple answer here.

It would appear that God’s answer often provides room, space, and time for human discernment. It would also appear that humans don’t like that much. Discernment is complicated and messy. While I must admit that I prefer simple answers, I find that discerning a better answer or even a better question is more helpful.

Jesus’ response is as problematic as the question: “It is not for you to know.” That is about as helpful as “because I said so” from a grown-up. While we so desperately want to know the right answer and do the right thing, we are often forced to accept that the knowledge is currently beyond our purview. Some days I have to remind myself that God is either in charge or God is not in charge; that, in God’s time, we will discern the path and move confidently into the future that is prepared for us.

Yet there is a statement of expectation from Jesus here. This is the one that keeps me centered. “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.” We are given a directive to spread the good news of what Jesus did during his ministry on earth, the good news of whom the Christ included, accepted, and made whole. We receive power from the Holy Spirit to help us act as Jesus acted, not to know what Jesus knew.

What I really like is what happened next, as the disciples were standing about wondering what to do. Someone appeared, as they often do when the disciples are bewildered, and asked, “Why do you stand looking up?” I find that line important. It is like they (we) are being asked, “Why are you standing here? You have work to do. Remember? Jesus will come back in the same way. In the meantime, you have work to do.”

Almighty and ever-living Lord, thank you for always pushing me to do rather than to simply think. Thank you for putting people, objects, and tasks in my path to help shake me out of the easy and into the active job of working as your hands and feet in the world. Amen.

Written by Rob Sinclair, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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