may 24th, 2020 – waiting

Let us pray together:
Loving God,
     you have given us life
   with all its possibilities for growth.
You made us in your own image –
   responsible and creative,
     open to great visions,
  and capable of great imagination.
In Jesus Christ you have shown us,
     what we might be.
When you raised him to life
     you showed us that death is not the end
   for those who put their trust in you.
Thank you for this new life in Christ
     and for the hope of its future fullness.
This day we thank you especially for this community –
   we thank you for all that it means to us.
We especially remember with gratitude
     the ways that you have taught us
   and shaped us through this church.
We thank you for a community of faith in you
     and all that we see of you through these people.
O gracious and holy Father,
      give us wisdom to perceive you,
   diligence to seek you,
     patience to wait for you,
  eyes to behold you,
      a heart to meditate upon you,
    and a life to proclaim you,
  through the power of the Spirit
    of Jesus Christ Our Lord.
Baptist Union of Great Britain


The Sun Will Rise (click here for audio link)
The sun will rise, the sun will rise
     bringing life to the earth as it springs from the ground
The sun will rise, the sun will rise
     won’t you dry all your tears, lay your burden down
  won’t you dry all your tears lay your burden down
John Arndt
David Gungor

Dear Theophilus, I wrote about Jesus in my earlier book. I wrote about what he did and taught until the day he was taken up to heaven. Before Jesus left, he gave orders to the disciples he had chosen. He did this through the Holy Spirit.   After his suffering and death, Jesus showed himself to the disciples to prove that he was alive. Over a period of forty days, Jesus appeared to them from time to time to speak to them about God’s kingdom.
One day Jesus was eating with them and he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised.  You have heard me talk about it. John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then the disciples gathered around Jesus and asked him, “Lord, are you going to give the kingdom back to Israel now?”
Jesus said to them, “You should not be concerned about times or dates. The Father has set them by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. Then you will tell people about me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria. And you will even tell other people about me from one end of the earth to the other.”
After Jesus said this, he was taken up to heaven. The apostles watched until a cloud hid him from their sight.


While Jesus was going up, they kept staring at the sky. Suddenly two men dressed in white clothing stood beside them.  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. But he will come back in the same way you saw him go.”
                                                                                                                        Acts 1:1-11

Our hearts are empty without You
     barren and cold
   but for the bold hope that You, Yourself planted within

In the mighty name of God
     in the saving name of Jesus
   in the strong name of the Spirit

We come  
   we cry
     we watch   
   we wait
     we look
   we long for you
David Adam
Jim Croegaert

Hey everyone – it’s good to be with through the technology of waves and wires.  I hope that you are finding some opportunities to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. 


As you know, this month we have been highlighting our church’s ministry partners.  We’ve asked each of them to send us an update, including ways that we can best support them at this time.  Today we are highlighting Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre and the link to access Cathy’s update is just below the link for this liturgy.  If you would like to hear it now, just pause this, click the link and you can have a listen. 


Today is the seventh Sunday of Easter Celebration. As I have been saying each week, during this season we are spending time in the stories surrounding the resurrection, reflecting on and trying to better understand their implications to us. Last Thursday was Ascension Day.  In the flow of the Church Calendar, it is the day we focus on Jesus’s return to heaven and remind ourselves what his return to heaven means for us.  There is an Ascension Day liturgy posted on our site that reflects on this and if you want, you can have a listen at your convenience.   


But for today I want try putting ourselves into the ascension story.  We’ll join the disciples as they stare into the sky watching Jesus disappear into the clouds.


Just before we get into the story, I want to quickly give a little bit of background to the text that was read.  The author who wrote the book of Acts, also called The Acts of the Apostles, was a man named Luke.  This is the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke.  Luke was not Jewish, so in that respect, he was a bit of an outsider.  He became of a follower of Jesus, or a Christian, through the stories that were passed on about Jesus.  In fact, the stories of Jesus seem to have captivated his attention so much so that he left his profession of medicine (he was a doctor) and began to investigate and compile eyewitness accounts of people who had spent time around Jesus.  His intent was to put together an accurate account of the life of Jesus to pass on to others, especially the people who were not Jewish.  In particular, Luke wanted to help a Roman official named Theophilus know with certainty that the stories he had been taught about Jesus were true. Both the book of Luke and the book of Acts were written to Theophilus. So just in case you were wondering about the mention of Theophilus at the beginning of our text, that is the background.


Ok, so let’s get into the story.  As we have discovered over the past few weeks, after the resurrection Jesus would appear for a moment and then be gone again.  Jesus had told the disciples that they were to wait for the gift of the Spirit, and it seems that he also had told them to meet one last time for some final instructions.  The Gospel writers all have slightly different versions of this but it there is a moment where Jesus meets up with them somewhere in the outskirts of Jerusalem. 


Even this meeting has with it elements of confusion.  Matthew says that the eleven disciples all meet up with Jesus.  They all see him, they all worship him, but some doubted.  Matthew doesn’t say anything more almost like bullet points from the minutes of a meeting:
-meeting called by Jesus on mountain
-those in attendance: Jesus and the eleven disciples
-those absent:  tragically, Judas
-meeting was called to order by Jesus
-all of disciples recognized Jesus and worshipped him
-some of the disciples had doubts
-Jesus gave instructions to keep telling his story
-meeting adjourned
(Just on the side, I personally find it encouraging that Jesus doesn’t seem to be troubled by disciples’ doubt and worship coexisting.  Maybe it’s because Jesus wanted the disciple to discover that the action of worship had the ability to push back doubt, to hold it at bay, and to let his presence take root.)


But back to this final gathering with Jesus and the disciples…  In this last moment together, Jesus tells them that he wants them to keep telling his story all over the country and beyond.  He also reminds them that they are to wait for the gift of the Spirit.  The disciples are confused as to what the intent of the gift of the Spirit is.  They wonder out loud if that’s when the Roman empire will be overthrown and the kingdom of Israel will be restored.  Like if it the gift is a freedom revolution.  Jesus doesn’t answer their question with clarity, only that they will receive power, and that things will work out according to a timeline set by someone above their pay grade.  And before the disciples are able to ask any more questions, Jesus begins to ascend into the sky and is engulfed by a cloud.  (Remember, that the presence of God was seen in a cloud in the Old Testament)  It strikes me that the disciples have the rare opportunity to peer into the invisible spiritual dimension that is all around.  It would have been pretty mind blowing, I think.   Nobody speaks, just everybody stands looking into the sky.  Maybe Luke edited out Peter saying something like, ‘Holy, Mother what just happened!?’ 


For me, the account kind of turns slightly comedic – the disciples are staring into the sky and two men are suddenly there asking, ‘Why are you looking into the sky?’  To which I think the disciples, still staring up, would have been like, ‘Why are you not!  He was standing here talking and then he just lifted off – it was crazy.’  Then they would have looked over and seen these two men dressed in white – presumably angels – and said, ‘Oh right, because you’re angles.’  Which would have triggered another set of crazy interactions. ‘What!  Now we’re talking with angels?!’ 
In the end the disciples, collect themselves and return to Jerusalem where they immediately gather some of the others who had been around Jesus.  And they began waiting.  Praying, trying to figure out what was next, waiting, going to the temple, waiting.  I wonder what this kind of waiting would have been like for them.  Waiting can carry with it lots of emotions.
To wait is to stay put or to delay doing something until a particular time or until something else happens.  Waiting can create impatience to do something or for something to happen.  But waiting can also be staying in a place of expectation, eagerly looking forward to something.


Just to get us in touch with waiting let’s try playing a game.  I’ll describe a situation that requires waiting and you take note of what it makes you think of or feel.


  1. It’s your brother or sister’s dance recital. The recitals are pretty long.  The recital begins and your brother or sister’s group is third on the program.  They finish their dance number and now you have to sit and watch another hour and a half of people dancing.
Or maybe it ‘s your sister or brother’s graduation and your last name begins with ‘A.’  Very quickly they make their way across the stage to get their diploma.  Now you realize you have to sit through at least two hours of waiting for everyone else to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.  What is that waiting like?


  1. A close friend, maybe even your best friend, has moved away for a year to go to school or maybe has gone overseas to work. They are planning to come home for a visit and have asked to stay at your place.  You’ve gotten everything ready for them – you’ve made plans, you stocked the refrigerator with all their favourite things.  You’ve just gotten a text from them saying that they have just caught their last connecting flight to Saskatoon and will be arriving at the airport in just under an hour.  What is that waiting like?


  1. Your child has asked you to go to a party that you know will be a little crazy. Your preference is that they don’t go, but in the end you give in and let them take the car.  You’ve agreed that they will be home by 12:30 am.  It’s now 2 am and your child isn’t home.  They aren’t answering your texts or phone calls and their close friends don’t know where they are. 
Or maybe you’re in the backyard and you see your dad fall off of a ladder.  He seems hurt pretty bad.  Your neighbour calls an ambulance and they take your dad to the hospital.  You can’t get a hold of your mom and you have to stay at your neighbours house until someone calls you to let you know what is happening.  What is that waiting like?
  1. It’s the middle of a pandemic and the social distancing and Zoom meetings are starting to wear on you. Nobody seems to know with any certainty when things will return to normal.  Nobody seems to know with any certainty when a vaccine will be developed that can eradicate the virus causing the pandemic.  What is that waiting like?


Well, the truth is that sometimes waiting is boring, and sometimes it’s exciting.  It can be stressful and at times waiting is frustrating and disappointing.  I think that there is an element to waiting that goes hand in hand with receiving.  And for me, it’s the receiving bit most often triggers my emotions.  Hearing back from a child or a friend, looking forward to spending time with a friend or family member.  Having twenty things to do and being stuck in a long, slow moving checkout line.


What are your experiences when you think of connecting waiting with things like prayer, and receiving from God, and seeing the kingdom of heaven coming alive in our world? 


Why did Jesus ask the disciples to wait?  What was the waiting for?  Did he want to slow them down?  Did he want them to realize that they could only receive if they waited?  Maybe it was a reminder to them, to all of us, that all of life is a slow unfolding of waiting and receiving.  What is clear is that Jesus wanted them to wait because he had something he wanted them to have.  A gift, a presence, an empowering.


What does this mean for us?  What does it mean for us to wait and receive?  The gift that Jesus was referring to has been given.  The Spirit has come.


And yet, the truth is that Jesus wants to give himself to us in a deeper way.  Yes, the Holy Spirit is with us.  Wanting to move us, lead us, helping us to be more like the nature of Jesus.


And although I know this there seems to be a tendency to forget, or at times to fight it.  So at times I need to ask the question, ‘what’s in my heart?’


The heart. The centre or inmost part of who we are.  We live out of our hearts. The things we hold in highest regard flow out of the deepest places of our hearts. We speak of our heart’s holding what we treasure.


So when think about this in the light of following after Jesus it can get a little murky.  What I mean is that I say that having a heart after Jesus is sometimes problematic.  I engage Jesus with words, I affirm Jesus with my words, but sometimes the words aren’t flowing out of my heart. It’s more out of routine or intellect.


The prophets wrote about this.  About how sometimes the people of Israel developed hearts of stones.  Hearts that lost warmth for God, care for God, intentionality to be open to God.


I sometimes struggle with a heart of stone.  An attitude or action that is in no way a reflection of Christ.  Or maybe a deadness of spirit – a spiritual apathy – or maybe it’s just a tiredness and disillusionment.


Where where does that come from?


It can be a struggle.


The prophet Ezekiel reminds us of what waiting on God and being open to receiving from God can bring about.   God says, ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’  Ezekiel 36:26
Part of waiting and receiving is allowing God to work in our hearts, in our attitudes and priorities.  Allowing the Spirit to renew, refresh, and reignite our passion.
In the same way Jesus told his disciples to wait and to receive, he wants us to also wait and receive.
Lots of times I think about wanting more, something deeper, having God’s heart pressed on my heart.
But I’m learning that wanting something more means that I need to be open to receiving, and sometimes receiving can be hard.  It requires intentionality, it requires vulnerability, and It can make us uncomfortable.


If you’ve ever had anyone say to you, ‘Close your eyes and open your mouth.’ then you know what I’m talking about.  Especially if the person saying it is a grubby faced kid with some indiscernible thing dripping from their hand.


Receiving takes courage.  It displaces things in us, changes things in us, brings things to the surface, and requires us to let go.


Sometimes the very thing that prevents us from receiving is the waiting.  Whether it’s the frustration of a slow unfolding, or the disappointment of being given something other than what we wanted, or maybe it’s the feeling of being alone in the waiting, or maybe we just feel like there is nothing to receive. 


Kathleen Norris writes, ‘Over time, I have learned two things about my religious quest:  First of all, that it is God who is seeking me, and who has myriad ways of finding me. Second, that my most substantial changes, in terms of religious conversion, come through other people.  Even when I become convinced that God is absent from my life, others have a way of suddenly revealing God’s presence.’
We need each other. We need community. That’s what this whole body is built around.


For me, If I’ve learned anything from the resurrection accounts, it’s that Jesus doesn’t get worked up about doubt, or questions, or fear, or even getting things wrong.  He quietly offers peace and promises that his Spirit will always be with us.  In any place we find ourselves in. 


In his steady way, Jesus invites us to take the risk of opening up to receive, even if our opening up is only in small ways.  It is in those cracks and spaces that Jesus enters bringing to bear his fullness of life.  Jesus is with us.  He holds everything, his love reaching out to restore, refresh, and reorient.  


May his love and compassion strengthen our faith and enliven our hope.  Amen.

Gravity of Love (click here for audio link)

I lift my eyes up to the hills
     this my morning song
   where my strength comes from

I lift my eyes up to the hills
     this my evening song
   where my help comes from

This is the gravity of love
     just as the moon follows the sun
You’re all around me
     You’re holding everything

This is the hope of every land
     just as the universe expands
You’re love is reaching
     You’re holding everything

We lift our eyes up to the hills
     when will our help come
   Lord we cry how long

We lift our eyes up to the hills
     even as we run
   hope is chasing us


John Arndt
David Gungor
Matt Maher

Let us pray together: 
God of grace,
     in your love and compassion
   strengthen our faith and enliven our hope.
God of grace
      by your Spirit’s breath
   help us to pray
and to trust you now and every day.
God of grace,
  give us wisdom to perceive you,
    diligence to seek you,
   patience to wait for you,
and eyes to behold you.
May the love of the Lord Jesus draw us to himself;
     may the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen us in his service;
  may the joy of the Lord Jesus fill our souls.
May the blessing of God Almighty,
     the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
   be among us and remain with us always.
Baptist Union of Great Britain

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