Submitted by Jan on Tue, 23/05/2017 – 10:45
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Year A (2016-2017)
Bible Book: Acts (of the Apostles)
The texts for this Sunday guide us over the bridge of Easter- and Ascension-Glory to the first step on our way to Pentecost. This bridge guides us from passive heavenly religiousness to active earthy faith, from a glorious heavenly gaze to an earthly calling of involved care.
John is writing to a community that is burdened with a heavy cross: To carry the Good News that Jesus is Lord into a world where everyone who rejected, or questioned, or stood up to the Roman Empire of Caesar Domitian (Latin Dominus et deus — Master/Lord and god) could expect economic, social and physical persecution. In times like these, one can easily withdraw, even flee to the comfort of religion, to the upper room, to the Ascension-hill which becomes a passive dreamlike heavenly gazed waiting room. Waiting for God to act.
John 17 is a beautiful pastoral prayer directed to the Father, through which Jesus encourages the disciples. Jesus reminds the disciples that His followers belong to the Father, because Jesus’ followers are one with Jesus and He in return is one with the Father.
This belonging has certain privileges:
 God’s protection in a hostile world,
 God’s transformation of Cross-bearing sacrifice/shame into Resurrection-Glory and
 Eternal life nów (which Jesus defines as “knowing God is eternal life”).
This belonging also has certain responsibilities:
 Being in the hostile world as those who live in unity with God and therefore with each other;
 Sharing the words so that others may receive the eternal life, namely knowing God.
Acts 1:6-14 brings another dimension to this being in the world. The disciples asks Jesus “Will You restore the kingdom of Israel now?” Instead of an answer they receive a blessing/calling [it seems that every blessing from God always has a calling in it]: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit/Wind/Breath comes on you; and you will be my witnesses/marters in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” With these words He departs, He takes His position as Lord, God and Ruler with the Father.
The reaction to this blessing and departing? The Disciples gaze in passive wonder, or perhaps in desperate confusion, at the heavens. Two Angels break the passive stare addressing them as “Men of Galilee!” and with this they are rooted into their everyday life, they are earthed.The Angel-words mobilize them to go down the hill, to a dangerous Jerusalem. There they wait. They wait for the confirmative breath of the Spirit. For their blessing/summons. This time they wait actively: prayerfully, in community and as one.
If John 17 reminds us of our unity with the Father, because of our unity with the Son; and if Acts 1 reminds us that our unity with the Son also translates into a Spirit filled summons to move from a passive heavenly gaze to an active empowered witness of God’s kingdom; Psalm 68:5-6 reminds us who we as God’s people should be in this world: A father to the fatherless, a mother to the motherless, a defender and supporter of widows. One who sets the lonely into families, who leads out the prisoners with singing and joy.
Just before we want to complain, because this will ask huge cross-bearing sacrifices we read 1 Pet 4:12-14 and we are encouraged to rejoice in the Christlike sufferings we wil endure as witnesses because our pain and insults as carers for those in need are a sign that we are on the right path as participants of God’s continuing movement in His world.
To think about: Does your current faith-journey help you to be an involved caring wit(h)ness in this world or are you stuck in an over-spiritualized passive stare at the heavens? What is your first small practical step to move from the hill to be the caring healer God intends you to be in His world?
Written By: Rev. Pieter Roeloffse, Pastor at the Dutch Reformed Congregation in Prince Alfred’s Hamlet
Author: Roelofse P (Rev)