|Pentecost 13, year A||September 7, 2014||Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|Pentecost 11, year A||August 24, 2014||Proper 16, Year A||Matthew 16:13-20|
|Pentecost 10, year A||August 17, 2014||Proper 15, Year A||Matthew 15:10-20, 21-28|
|Pentecost 9, year A||August 10, 2014||Proper 14, Year A||Matthew 14:22-33|
|Pentecost 8, year A||August 3, 2014||Pentecost 8, year A||Matthew 14:13-21|
|Pentecost 6, year A||July 20, 2014||Proper 11, Year A||Romans 8:12-25|
|Pentecost 7, year A||July 20, 2014||Proper 12, Year A||I Kings 3:5-12, Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33|
|Pentecost 5, year A||July 13, 2014||Proper 10, Year A||Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, Psalm 65:9-14|
|Genevieve Davis’ Funeral Homily||July 13, 2014||Burial of the Dead, Rite II||Isaiah 35:1-10, I John 4:7-8,11-12, John 14:1-3|
|Pentecost 4, year A||July 6, 2014||Proper 9, Year A||Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30|
|Pentecost 3, year A||June 29, 2014||3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:40-42|
|Pentecost 2, year A||June 22, 2014||Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year A||Psalm 69:8-20, Romans 6:1b-11, Matthew 10:24-39|
|Trinity Sunday, Year A||June 15, 2014||Trinity Sunday, Year A||Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20|
|Pentecost, Year A||June 8, 2014||The Day of Pentecost, Year A||Acts 2:1-21, I Corinthians 12:3b-13, John 20:1-23|
|➤Easter 7, Ascension Sunday, year A||June 1, 2014||Seventh Sunday of Easter||Acts 1:6-14|
Easter 7, Ascension Sunday, year A
Sermon Date:June 1, 2014
Scripture: Acts 1:6-14
Liturgy Calendar: Seventh Sunday of Easter
"Ascension" stained glass windows St. George’s Episcopal
The other day I was clearing away a pile of what turned out to be mostly trash against the back wall of my in-laws’ house in Fredericksburg.
And I found this old shovel. And I asked myself, “Is this something I could use later, maybe fix up?”
After all, this shovel is something that used to be in great shape, functional, and useful. I found myself wondering who had used it—maybe my mother-in-law had used it for gardening. And I can halfway use it, even now.
Maybe it could be fixed up again and take on its former glory. So in spite of the fact it’s not that useful right now, maybe I’ll just keep it and think about getting a new handle for it.
And so I brought it home and put it under the house and promptly forgot about it until I read today’s reading from Acts.
At the beginning of Acts, we find Jesus has appeared to the disciples many times during the forty days after the resurrection, and has asked them to stay in Jerusalem until God sends them power from on high.
So now, Jesus and the disciples are together again, and the disciples say to Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
The disciples are looking backward, into the past. They were asking Jesus an old question, one that had been on their minds during their time with him before his crucifixion and death.
They’re still caught up in the idea that the Messiah will restore Israel to its former glory. They’ve gotten stuck in a construct from the past . Their question suggests magical thinking—that God is going to swoop in and instantly change the current reality into something they remember as a glorious past.
Now Jesus doesn’t come right out and tell the disciples that their question is focused on the past—that they have themselves stuck by looking back and wondering if what used to be is going to be restored.
Instead, Jesus responds to their question with an answer that moves the focus of the disciples away from the past and gets them to look into the future, to think in a way unlimited by the confines of what used to be the nation of Israel.
He tells them that it isn’t for them to know God’s timing, and MEANWHILE—they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and they will be witnesses for Jesus in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
And Jesus is going to give them the power to do this through the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they will be involved in establishing God’s kingdom on earth.
Joseph Campbell once said that we must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned so as to live the life that’s waiting for us.
And that is exactly what Jesus is telling these disciples. Time to get rid of this plan in your mind of restoring the kingdom of Israel as it once was so that you can go forward and live the life that’s waiting for you as my witnesses.
And then Jesus is lifted up and a cloud takes him out of their sight.
And before they even have time to look away from this amazing vision, two men in white robes are standing next to them asking,
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”
Because the disciples are in danger of getting stuck a second time—stuck right on this spot, with their eyes continually lifted and watching and watching and watching for the return of Jesus, and in so doing forgetting to seek the life that Jesus has laid out for them.
And so, remembering that Jesus had asked them to stay in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit, they stop staring into heaven and travel back to Jerusalem, to the upper room where they are staying, and they all devote themselves to prayer while they wait to receive the power to carry out their mission when the Holy Spirit comes upon them.
Today, we are the disciples, and Jesus has also called us to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. And it’s just as easy for us as it was for the early disciples to get stuck.
When we’re stuck, we find ourselves dwelling in the past, wishing for what used to be and praying over and over–“Lord, is this the time that you will restore the church to its former glory of several decades ago before this decline began?” We can’t move ahead in our witness because we’re too busy looking back at what used to be and longing for it.
And in this day and age, it’s also easy to get stuck looking into heaven and asking, “How long, Lord? How long will it be before you come back and get this world straightened out?”
As you know, we are spending some time in discernment here at St Peter’s, thinking about the various ways that God might be calling us to be witnesses in the world.
And while we’re waiting to receive some input and power from the Holy Spirit regarding how God is calling us, this church in particular, to be witnesses to Jesus in this world,
this is a good time for us to follow the example of the early disciples, and to come together on a regular basis and to devote ourselves to fervent prayer as we wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon us,
because without this shared discipline of prayer, we’ll be about as effective in our witness as this old shovel. Yes, I can still dig with it, but without a good handle, I won’t have the power to use this shovel effectively. I’ll be limited in what I can actually do with it.
So as we prepare for next Sunday and for the coming of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of this church,
Let’s be in prayer about this future that Jesus has set before us.
“You will be my witnesses in Port Royal, and in Caroline County, and in Virginia and in the United States and to the ends of the earth.”
Keeping this future before us, we can let go of those parts of the past that have us stuck, and be free let Jesus lead us into this moment, this day, and this age with intention– to give God the glory through our witness– so that God may be glorified in each one of us, in this church and to the world. Amen.