05/28/17 – Jesus Has Gone Up – Now What?
JESUS HAS GONE UP – NOW WHAT?

May 28, 2017
Sermon:  Acts 1:6-14;   Psalm 68;  1 Peter 4;   John 17:1-11
Easter 7A
Rev. Denise Clark-Jones

You might have missed it, you don’t hear about it much, but this past Thursday was Ascension Day. Counting 40 days after Easter, this is the day the Church has celebrated the day the risen Christ left his disciples to be with God forever and ever. This seventh Sunday of Easter our scripture passages from Acts and John prepare us for the celebration of Pentecost next Sunday. In order for Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit to be received to help them in their commission, Christ had to leave them. Although these disciples understood more about Jesus than before the Resurrection, they still got a few things wrong. Welcome to the Church!

In our reading from Acts, Luke’s story of the early Church, the disciples ask the risen Christ: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus lets that question pass by – it’s just too ignorant to answer. Instead, he answers by telling them to forget about marking God on a timeline, there are much more important questions. In a nutshell, the disciples needed to understand why Jesus came and what they were to do after he was gone.

Jesus rises up to the clouds where the psalmist wrote God dwells in glory. The disciples are left with two strangers in white robes telling them to stop pondering irrelevant questions and get on with their work. Jesus will come back someday just they way he left, but for now, stop your useless cloud-gazing and navel-gazing and get on with it. Again, sounds like good advice for a church too.

In our gospel reading from John, Jesus says ‘now is the time.’ He knows the timeline because he is one with God. He then explains what they are to do. The risen Christ said in his prayer: “now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world. In other words, the disciples’ job was to do the things that Jesus did. What did Jesus do: he fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, healed the sick, included the excluded, and loved the unloved. All of these actions were God’s calling to us. Now that the disciples had been called, they were to answer the call by doing likewise.

This is the question the gospels pose to us, the church: Now that Christ is gone, what are we to do?

I read an illustration by another pastor this week. He had seen a sign outside a church run thrift shop:  “JESUS LOVES YOU.  DONATIONS ACCEPTED. “That’s the reason for our calling and how we are to answer. We are called to spread the news throughout Peoria, throughout Illinois and into Missouri and then to all the world that God loves all of us and wants us to return that love by loving others.

This is why we feed Peoria’s poor at our food pantry. Why we give teenage mothers the opportunity to finish high school while giving their babies and toddlers the best start possible for their lives. Why we bring the beauty of the arts to this community. Why we offer a week-long choir camp to Peoria’s children, where, for a week, they can all be one using their God-given talents to make music and art together. This is why we are looking for new ways we can serve our community with the little used Parish House.

We can’t predict the future of Westminster any more than we can predict the number of days in our lives or the days before Jesus comes again. What we can do is to continue to do what Jesus did. This was the message the author of First Peter delivered to a congregation of the early church:

1.Be humble; God will exalt you in due time. Don’t worry how long the memorial gift will last before it is spent.
Spend it now and see heaven and earth meet. God will take care of making your acts of loving kindness eternal.

2. Don’t worry so much; God cares for you. All shall be well.

3.Strengthen yourself with discipline. Resist evil. Remember you have a choice — make the one you think Jesus would.

Churches worry too much about how long they will last and too little about why they are where they are now. Church members worry too much about eternal life and too little about why they are alive today. In his book entitled Simply Christian, New Testament Scholar Bishop N.T. Wright, says, “Despite what many people think, … the point of Christianity isn’t ‘to go to heaven when you die.’ … Earth and heaven were made to overlap with one another, not fitfully, mysteriously, and partially as they do at the moment, but completely, gloriously and utterly.” May God’s will be done right here, right now on this piece of earth on Moss Ave. as it is in heaven.

Amen.

 

© Rev. Denise Clark-Jones, 2017, All Rights Reserved
Westminster Presbyterian Church – Peoria, Illinois