The Ascension is probably one of the most important holidays on the church calendar, yet also the most overlooked.. If we can push past our scientific qualms for a minute—not ignore them, but suspend them for a bit to look at the meaning of the story—there’s profound truth here.
The point is that what we see here in this frantic and tense episode from Jesus’ life is true for all our lives. We belong to God, each of us individually and all of us together. That’s the core truth of Baptism: as children of God of whatever age, God is at work in all of our lives, even we can’t see or feel or know it. God is with us in the growing pains of faith, working out God’s good purposes.
One way to do evangelism is to tell the wider story of Scripture in a way that is personally meaningful to us. That’s the key: it has to be authentic to us and true to our lives if it is to be compelling to other people. It’s not trying to warp other people into a version of ourselves. It’s not converting people to our way of thinking. It’s invitational. Testifying to God’s presence in our life helps other people name it in theirs.
St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church – The Rev. Bart Smith The Third Sunday of Easter (April 30, 2017) Acts 6:1-15, 7:51-60 – “Courage: where does it come from?” About that time, while the number of disciples continued to increase, a complaint arose. Greek-speaking disciples accused the Aramaic-speaking disciples because their widows were being overlooked in the daily food service. The Twelve [apostles] called…
We know all too well that the road to Emmaus is the road we walk when our hopes are dashed and our dreams are crushed and our hearts are filled with despair. The Emmaus Road is any place where we find ourselves seven miles from certainty, as we lament the things didn’t turn out how we had hoped.
The people (the women and men) telling idle tales today are those who—like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others—dare to look for life in seemingly dead places, or better yet, people who work for life in places that have only known death. These are people who aren’t visionaries, necessarily, but who are still willing, in the grunt work of daily life, to keep telling stories of what is possible.
This story—the whole story, all parts of it—hold up a mirror to us. In the harsh light, we see the truth of what humanity is capable of. We can see ourselves in Pilate washing his hands saying, “I’m just doing my job.” We can see our reflection in Peter’s betrayal a friend because of fear. We can see ourselves in the other disciples, as they flee; in Mary, who faces the agony of losing a child. We can see our reflection in the fickle crowds who shout “Hosanna!” one day and “Crucify him!” a mere few days later. It’s all there: disloyalty, dodging responsibility, mob rule, persecution, blaming, bloodshed, you name it.
“Greed is the inordinate love of money and material possessions, and the compulsive behavior that is driven by the need to have more and more of both. The truly greedy person is never content and is willing to sacrifice everything (and everyone) to acquire more… Sloth is more than the cartoon of a couch potato. It’s the sickness of the soul that leads to complete and utter indifference.”
So, is Jesus talking about sexual desire in itself? Or about a desire that warps to see another human being as an object to be possessed rather than a partner to be in covenant with? The question becomes, does our desire reflect the love of God or the domination systems of this world? Does it draw us closer to God and one another, or does it drive us away from God and one another?
Some in the tradition of Christian thought make an important distinction between anger, which can be neutral, and wrath, which is excessive or misdirected anger, from passion, a normal emotion. I said last week that the sins which make the seven deadlies list has evolved over time: wrath was on the ancient lists, not anger. Passion can be constructive, an intense energy to be harnessed, but wrath can smolder and then start to take over, like a forest fire.