Stroll Through Scripture for April 7, 2024

Based on Acts 1:1-14

The resurrection has taken place.  Now what?  That’s probably what was going through the minds of Jesus’ early followers.  Regardless of the fact that Jesus told his closest followers at least three times what was going to happen, they just never got it.  But are we any different?  How many times does Jesus tell us love our enemies, care for the poor, welcome the stranger, get rid of things that get in the way of our relationship with God and others, and more?  And how many times do we humans, at least collectively, ignore Jesus or twist his words to the exact opposite of what he calls on followers to do?  The answer seems to be almost non-stop.  

And so this second Sunday of Easter offers us a reading that hits these topics.  The author of Acts tells us what is essentially part two of the Gospel of Luke.  He gives us a quick summary in the first paragraph to catch up to speed.  It reminds me of the scrolling text across the screen of the Star Wars movies.  

From there, we jump to the Ascension of Jesus – 40 days after the Resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus makes this final appearance to his disciples with some final instructions.  But first, the disciples still don’t seem to get it.  They ask Jesus – “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel?”  They are still more interested in a political earthly kingdom than in what Jesus has been concerned about all along.  How often do we put our hope in earthly things that come and go, rather than in eternal things?  Maybe that’s because we can grasp the earthly.  Or maybe it’s because the eternal is just too abstract for us to understand.   

The message from Jesus to his followers is essentially this – stop focusing on stuff that is out of your control, you’ve got stuff to do.  From there, they return to Jerusalem.  They go back to the upper room where they have been staying and hiding.  It’s the same room there Luke records Jesus’ appearance to them in Chapter 24.  The author lists the 11 disciples, with the disciples closest to Jesus only bearing their name, while the others have descriptors.  

And what is the work that they start to engage in?  We are told that they were “constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.”  The is a lesson here for us I think.  Jesus ascends.  It’s before Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon those gathered, which will take place in short order.  And what do the disciples do?  They pray together.  One can only wonder what the content of their prayer was.  Prayer is often seen as the idea of our talking and God listening.  But that’s only half of it.  It works the other way as well – We stop talking and become open to what God has to say.  Devoting oneself to prayer isn’t all about words either.  Prayer can be an attitude.  

Questions for Reflection

  • The question of “now what?” after the resurrection still applies to us today.  What impact does the resurrected Jesus have on our lives?  
  • Are we consumed by temporary things like the disciples – things that will come and go in their due time?  What is Jesus calling us to focus on instead?
  • What would it look like to pray constantly?  

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