A DIARY OF DAILY PRAYER
22 May 2020
Opening Sentences (responsive)
In the wilderness, water brings life.
Seek us out, O God, and take us to the water.
In the Word of God, the good news gives light.
Seek us out, O God, and fill us with understanding.
In the bread and the wine, the body of our Savior nourishes everyone.
Seek us out, O God, and give us yourself.
Prayer for Illumination
Creator God, you created us with unbridled freedom. By the power of your Spirit, speak your Word through the words of scripture, that we may live according to your will; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Scripture Reading Acts 1:6-14
SOME THINGS TO PONDER AS YOU READ THE PASSAGE:
As the book of Acts opens, we find the community of the faithful in a somewhat similar state of disorientation. Their lives were on hold as they wondered what would happen next…as they waited to see what God would do next.
Their bewilderment was not due to terrorist attacks or to Covid 19. Instead, they were reeling because of the way God had turned the world upside down. Jesus, their friend, had died a horrible death…but then God raised him from the dead. A God who could do such a thing was a God to be feared…because such a God could do anything.
With this in mind, the faithful gathered around the risen Jesus…and they allowed themselves to wonder. Was it possible the time was right for God to rid Palestine of every Roman – to return Israel to its former glory? They asked, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
With these thoughts as background, consider the text.
READ TEXT: Acts 1:6-14
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 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.” 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
The disciples must have said, “Lord, while you are busy turning the world upside-down, wouldn’t this be a good time for you to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
After all, at the beginning of his ministry Jesus had said, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near…”[i] It was reasonable enough, then, for the disciples to wonder if God’s next world-shattering act would be the restoration of the kingdom to Israel.
Their mistake was not in asking the question. Their mistake was in thinking the kingdom Jesus was talking about was the nation of Israel restored to an imposing power with vast political, economic, and religious influence.
That was not quite what Jesus had in mind. It was never what Jesus had in mind. The kingdom Jesus spoke of was not about geography – not about an earthly political entity. If it was about geography at all, it was about the geography of the human heart.
Jesus was thinking much larger than just a piece of real estate or even the people of Israel. I say this because from the beginning of Jewish history, God made it clear Israel was to be a blessing to all the people of this planet – that all peoples would be led by the faithfulness and behavior of the people of Israel to love and serve God.[ii]
Through Jesus God’s objective was to induce his people to be the people they were created to be – that is, a people of God. Once transformed into a people who actually loved and served God and loved one another, then this transformed people could become the blessing they were meant to be to each other, to all people, and to all creation.[iii]
Jesus told the disciples, “Do not worry. You are not expected to do what I ask of you on your own. Wait and watch and in a short while God is going to act again. And when he does, you will receive power from the Holy Spirit – power you need to be my witnesses in all the earth.”
That something God would shortly do was to pour out the power of the Holy Spirit upon them. God’s Spirit would blow into their midst and empower them to be witnesses to the Risen Christ and to create the church.
Remember, the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them. Pentecost had not yet occurred. They were in a time of waiting. They were in the midst of a “significant pause” between mighty acts of God…a time in which they were to wait and pray.
As you and I wonder what God will do next…in terms of the church, in terms of the pandemic, etc…I don’t imagine we’ll sit still. But along with whatever posture we take, how about waiting and praying?
As I read the scriptures and pay attention to myself, O God, I am no dummy; I realize I was made for better. Surely you must grow weary by my selfish and persistent poor choices, by my apparent inclination toward mediocrity, and by my refusal to follow through on your guidance and my best intentions. Though I don’t know quite what I’m asking, work me over with the Category 5 hurricane force of your Spirit. I entrust to you, Lord, my demolition and reconstruction. In your mercy, may it be so. Amen.
Live this day as extremists for love…and may the peace of Christ be with us now and forever more.
[i] See Mark 1:15.
[ii] See Genesis 28:14.
[iii] Johnson, Luke T. 1992. The Acts of the Apostles. Sacra Pagina Series, Vol. 5. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 29.