belated ascension… or waiting with a purpose

So, last weekend i was speaking on a passage from the beginning of Luke’s account of the Acts of the Apostles, one that describes Jesus’ ascension and the promise of the Holy Spirit.  For all sorts of reasons my talk was slightly less structured than sometimes (those reasons would include pox-ridden children, taking some time off and general stuff), but here it is, for those who’d like to have a look:

And they said to him (well, they didn’t, but I would have been tempted to)- we’ve left our homes and families, we’ve followed you, seen all you’ve done and been equipped by you to do the same, we’ve failed you at crucial times, and you’ve come back to us- you’ve done everything you set out to, you’ve brought the kingdom of heaven down into the streets and lifted the beggars and the poor into the presence of God- you’ve drawn us into a whole new way of understanding the world and have set out the start point for the kingdom, and are you now going to restore the kingdom of Israel as a way of demonstrating what your restoration will look like on a grand scale?

And Jesus said (well, he didn’t, but…) ‘not telling’. But- you can have the Spirit of God living in you while you wait.

And with that, he left them… waiting.

Children to help out by charading synonyms: congregation have to guess the phrase, it links to today’s theme

Twiddle your thumbs, kicking your heels, be patient, stand by… wait

Define waiting- ‘staying where you are or delaying action until a particular time or event’

‘remaining in readiness for a purpose’ a period of waiting could be called an interval- between 2 things… but its not the thing…

What do we do when we’re waiting for something? Well, what sort of things do we wait for? Buses and trains, sometimes- and usually we try to minimise the amount of time waiting by turning up as close to the departure time as possible…

Food- often… but do we actually wait, or do we fill the time? In a restaurant, how often do you see a table of diners sitting in silence with their cutlery poised before the food has arrived? My guess is never… why? Because actually the food isn’t the whole point, is it? Its about time together, the atmosphere etc… this is why the English are sometimes accused of missing the point about mealtimes- lunch should take 3hrs, rather than be rushed… conversation before and over the food is a part of the meal rather than a distraction from it.

And so Jesus told his disciples to wait. Children to go and join Kim.

The waiting wasn’t the whole point. Nor, in fact, was what they were waiting for- the Holy Spirit is an amazingly important part of what it means to be a Christian (more next week on that) but its not the whole point…

But why does God make them wait? Why does God make us wait? Many of us here have waited and prayed faithfully for things to happen- whether in this church or others, and yet they haven’t. Is it because God is lazy or hard of hearing, or just forgetful? No, no, no.

When we’re asking God to do one thing in the world, God is often doing something in our lives, and if we think its taking time for God to act in the world, its usually because its taking time for us to let God act in our lives… there are all sorts of examples that help us to understand this-

A party- you want to see the people, but you don’t want them to arrive while things aren’t ready…

Decorating/DIY- the bits that seem to take forever, and then suddenly things start to move quicker… getting things ready first is so important if you want to make good progress…

Waiting- being in a state of readiness… ready for the power of the Holy Spirit to come, and ready to be witnesses for God… ready to become the means that God has chosen to spread his word in our home city, our nation and across the world… to become the church. A time of growing- putting down roots, thickening the stem etc…

Our job here is twofold- firstly to discern which stage we’re in, whether we’re in a waiting stage- preparing ourselves, learning to trust God, learning to receive and follow, like diners waiting for the food to arrive, or whether we’ve the food in front of us, the road ahead of us, the party is starting, and we’ve done enough preparation and learning- its time for action… whether we’re in a time of going… and that discernment itself is a spiritual process, which the PCC, wardens and myself are engaged in as the leaders of the church, but which we each must go through for ourselves.

And the second part is to make sure that we don’t just spend our time waiting… always waiting, while not knowing what we’re waiting for or having any expectation of it happening… and equally that we don’t just spend our days in action, being busy for God, doing the work of the kingdom in the world when actually the first place that God desires to see transformation is in our hearts… because all of this stuff- the ascension and the angelic figures, it all has an impact here, in the grounded reality of this place and this person… so lets let it happen, and lets let it happen in God’s timing.

On Sunday I’ll be speaking about what happened next- when the Holy Spirit came… and hopefully we’ll make time to actually do some waiting for that to happen here today.

On another note, we’re going to be looking at the E100 resource and I’ll be blogging my own responses each day, so there’s going to be a flurry of posts over the summer, and maybe even a guest post or two… if you’ve never looked at E100 it’s a set of readings from the Bible that give an overview of the whole narrative that it contains, without having to read all of every book.

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