Greetings, friends connected by the Spirit and electronics.
Our Narrative Lectionary post was delayed this week due to our writer experiencing a situation familiar to all of us right now- more work than expected, to be completed in new and different ways. I’m pinch-hitting, even though I’m an RCL user, so I appreciate your indulgence.
This week’s Narrative Lectionary passage is Acts 1:1-14. That passage and accompanying commentary can be found here on Working Preacher.
The verses that stand out to me in particular for our time are these:
4 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; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with 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?”
So, they have witnessed the miracle of resurrection and Jesus has remained for 40 more days with them, “speaking to them about the kingdom of God”. Still, they want to know when their expectations will be met. It’s like they hadn’t heard a word he said about what the kingdom is like, its nearness, or its demands on them and their lives.
True, those who followed Jesus were surely traumatized what they had witnessed and confused about what they were today, but they seem to set all that aside to ask, “When it going to be like we always dreamed? When will we have power? When will the new normal come- the one where we are in charge? When will Rome be crushed? When will we be “more than conquerors”? When can we skip to the good part- meaning the good part for us?”
They aren’t prepared to grapple with the truth that their new “normal” will only be powerful when it comes to standing against the forces that oppose God’s will. Their new “normal” means standing with the oppressed, resisting the powers that be, and speaking a truth that will seem foolish in its hope and trust. Their new “normal” will mean yielding to the call of the Holy Spirit, rather than to their own will, and adjusting their ethics to align with Jesus’ own way of being in the world. Their new “normal” is to eat with whom Jesus would eat, heal whom he would heal, preach what he would preach, stay with whom he would stay, go where he would go, resist what he would resist, and die like he would die. It will certainly take the baptism of the Holy Spirit for them to accept these things as normal and to seek both the will and the way to do them.
In our own time, what is the new “normal” for our communities? What tombs have been broken open and what new life has come forth? How do we see Jesus lingering with us, for extra time, and revealing truths about God’s kin-dom to us? In the weeks ahead, will our question be “how can we go back to what we were” or will it become “how can we go forward with what we know now”?
It is interesting how many times I’ve heard in the past few weeks: “Maybe after this, more people will come to church”. To me, that sounds a lot like “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel”. What if our question becomes, like that our spiritual ancestors, “How, after this, will the church come to the people?”
How are you wrestling with this text? How is it wrestling with you? May you limp away with a blessing in the reading and sharing of God’s word in your own place.
The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Big Timber Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Big Timber, MT. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit and is President of the board of RevGalBlogPals, Inc.
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