I can certainly understand the yearning behind the disciples’ plea today as they stand on the edge of an unknown future.
One cannot fully know why they accompanied Jesus all those years in the first place, but it seems to me some large part of their devotion to him must have been rooted in the truth that they were looking for a world different from the one they had known. And they experienced this in him.
And yes, in their collective question now, their wondering is likely political for theirs had been a nation and way of being lived under foreign occupation for as long as any one of them could remember. Indeed, they were yearning for something they did not themselves know, but within that yearning was the promise of freedom with all that entailed.
Jesus, in his bearing and in his being, promised something more, something other than what life had held. And now in the wake of his astounding resurrection, they are wondering when the implications of this great reversal would be more fully known in ways that were visible and tangible.
Only, of course, Jesus does not answer them except to say that in a way, it is all back on them now. And not only for them, but for all the world: this fulfillment of the promise of freedom from all that would bind, from all that would destroy, from all that would lead to death. For in his next breath he sends them back out into the world, with the certainty that power would be theirs to bear witness to a world yet to come. The one Jesus had begun to bring with his teaching, with his healing, with his serving, with his suffering, his dying, his living again.
And yes, I entirely understand the aching question of the disciples now, for along with all of you, I often yearn for a different world than the one I find myself waking up to day by day.
- One where the most vulnerable are cared for: the young, the old, those who are suffering, those who are ill or dying.
- One where we are not defined by race or gender or sexual orientation, by wealth or poverty, or by which side of a border we are born on. But by our shared humanity.
- One, indeed, where we more and more see and experience all this created world as vulnerable, as in need of such tender care, as wholly beloved.
For this is so that my aching for this is as tangible as it has ever been. For in the community where I live and serve as pastor, we were startled by the news a week ago that the body of a fifteen year old girl was found in a dumpster.
She was in a relationship with one who was older than she, one who, unbeknownst to her and her family, was a registered sex offender. When they got in an argument, he suffocated her with a pillow and disposed of her body.
- One’s whole being cries out in grief and outrage at such as this.
- One finds oneself questioning how it all came to pass as it did.
- Indeed, one quickly seeks to assign blame. On the one accused, yes. On a justice system which seems to have failed. And on and on.
And then one begins to hear about the brokenness of the life of the one who has admitted to ending the life of a child half his age.
And one weeps all the more for where we find ourselves in yet another devastating cycle of violence, of seemingly utter disregard for the gifts of God which are living and moving all around us and beside us and among us.
And along with those who loved her, those who taught her, those who were grateful for her life and spirit and companionship, we cry out wondering when Jesus will do something to make it right. To make it all right again.
And again, we hear what those disciples did.
That with the gift and power of the Holy Spirit, we are the ones who are sent into the world with the word and the promise of another way.
We are those who are sent.
And in the being sent, I expect we are among those who find healing, too. For we are all in need of it as well.
It’s a small thing I offer now, only made a little larger by where I have found myself in these last months, but it is what comes to mind as one way of considering the urging and invitation before us now in Jesus’ words.
I have been walking alongside a 92 year old in her last weeks and days.
After a devastating fall and after it became clear she would never return to her life as she knew it before, she began disposing of her life possessions and a few days ago, she made the decision to enter hospice care.
She had taught school for 52 years. In fact, she began teaching the same September my mother did. My mother, who also died at 92 just a few months back.
The parallels have been striking, and not only in age and chosen profession. More than these, it has been:
- Her voice crying out to me to come.
- Her hand holding tight to my mine as I have sat alongside.
- Her mouthing the Lord’s Prayer even when she has no sound left within her.
- And now, in these last days, in her just sleeping.
It shook me at first to go, as perhaps one might expect, and then to go again and again.
For I could not enter her room without reliving some of the struggle my sisters and I shared in this last year as we lived alongside much the same.
But then, somehow, it became easier. Pretty soon, I could leave what was about me at the door and simply be present to and with the one lying there and my call to bear witness within her hearing to the promises of God. With presence and prayers. With silence and with speaking. With holding a hand or retrieving a sip of water.
I offer this now as a small example of how you and I are called to enter into the world’s pain, bearing witness to the different world the disciples are yearning for now, even as you and I do every day.
I offer this now as a reminder that we enter this world also bruised or even broken by whatever has been ours to experience at the hands of a world which does not measure up to God’s intent, and likely never really has.
I offer this now even as I think Jesus did as urging and invitation. For this world will not be ‘restored’ as the disciples beg today unless we are a part of that restoration.
For ourselves, certainly, but more than this for a world where heartbreak and senseless suffering are all too common.
Indeed, you and I are called to be witnesses to something more, even as we struggle to hear it for ourselves. But in our stepping out and bearing that witness, somehow we hear it better for ourselves as well.
And our own healing begins, even as the world hears, perhaps through us, the promise of healing and hope which God intends for us all.
Or at least I have found this to be so.
- When have you found yourselves joining in with the disciples’ yearning question, “Is this the time, O Lord…?”
- How do you respond to what I have heard in this account this time through that you and I will be part of this promised healing only as we respond to Jesus’ invitation, surely for the sake of the world, but in the end, for our own sakes as well?
- What stories would you add to mine which illustrate that yearning and/or the beginning of the restoration the disciples and you and I cry out for now?