Thought for the week – 16th May 2021
This week, the 7th Sunday after Easter, is also the Sunday after Ascension. Ascension will have been celebrated by many Christians last Thursday and I’ve been sharing some thoughts on this event with Joan, one of my co-contributors to Thought for the Week, and we both agreed it’s a very difficult subject and one that can’t really be tackled at any great depth in a short ‘Thought for the Week’. But is there something we can pick out from this event and the effect it had on the disciples that can teach us something today in 2021?
One of the lessons we could all learn, or at least I certainly could, is patience! So much had happened to Jesus’ followers in the previous three years or so. They’d been travelling with this enigmatic man who they now knew, for sure, to be the Messiah. They’d seen him in action, listened to his words, just a few weeks before they saw him put to death on a cross, they’d witnessed him risen from the dead and for forty days after his resurrection, many had been sharing food and fellowship with him, received further teaching and now he was going to leave them – but not without a promise. A promise that they would be baptised in the Holy Spirit which would comfort, guide and see them through the times ahead. The disciples wanted to know if this was it, was this the time when God‘s kingdom would be restored to Israel? Jesus was quite clear, that was in God’s hands and would happen when he decided. Is it any wonder they were impatient after everything they’d experienced? But the restoration of God’s kingdom would happen in His time and in the meantime the disciples had work to do, they had to go out and spread the good news of the gospel far and wide.
I’d like to return to a subject we considered back in July of last year, that of ‘time.’ When I looked back on that thought I realise it was a period when, like now, we had been anticipating some sort of end to this pandemic!
Time is a very precious gift from God and one we should try not to waste. Faced with a situation where some event or occasion we’re desperately waiting for is yet to happen, we have two choices. We can sit around and do nothing, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for whatever it is we’re waiting for, or we can use the time wisely, perhaps in preparation for when that longed for event happens, but not exclusively. If we’re looking forward to friends and family coming for a BBQ in a couple of weeks, we don’t sit around doing nothing in the meantime, neither do we leave it until an hour before they arrive to go out and buy a BBQ, charcoal, get the food ingredients, marinade the meat, make desserts, cut the grass …… among other things we use the days preceding to prepare and make necessary purchases. As we enter into the next level of life, post pandemic, which we all hope and pray, in spite of recent reports, will continue in a positive direction this time, what are we doing with our time? Oh I know we can go to shops now, but what about life, the ‘life in all its fullness’ we talked about last week?
Time is not the only gift God has given us, what other skills, gifts, talents has he given us that could enrich our lives now and into the weeks, months and years ahead, and just as important (more so perhaps) that could enrich the lives of others. Are they the sort of skills that require practice and refining, there’s a lot of truth in the cliché ‘use it or lose it.’ Do we have latent skills not yet explored? How are we using our time?
When Jesus left the disciples on the day of Ascension he knew he was leaving them in what is still an imperfect world, he knew they would need encouragement and help. Life would not be easy and they would need to love, care, encourage and build each other up in what, for many of them, would be a hostile environment, using all their God given gifts. But it wasn’t just about each other, they were to show God’s forgiveness, love, compassion, to the wider world, encouraging and building up wherever they could.
I realise that I constantly return to this subject of forgiveness, loving and caring for each other, and was about to apologise for doing so, but these things were, and still are, central to the commandments Jesus gave his disciple’s, so surely they must remain the central message of his church 2000 years later.
So I suppose they bear repeating?
Father God Help us we pray
In our journey through this imperfect World
To know your presence is still with us,
To know that we are not alone.
Guide, strengthen and encourage us
In all we strive to do for you.
Help us to share each other’s burdens
And each other’s joys.
Be with those who have no one to share with,
Guide and strengthen us to become your eyes, ears
And voice of comfort to strength and encourage them
Whenever we can.
And may we do it all in Jesus name. Amen.