Author: Bob von Trebra
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. Acts 1:12-14
The New Testament book of Acts (or the Acts of the Apostles) is the sequel to the gospel of Luke. It is written by the same author as Luke, and continues its story. It begins right after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and narrates the beginnings of the early Christian community, and its spread to Asia Minor, Europe, and eventually to Rome, the capital of the empire.
This passage is about the early followers of Jesus in the first weeks after the resurrection. I can only try to imagine what his family and followers were feeling at this time. They were certainly grieving his terrible, unexpected death. Although there are stories of the risen Christ appearing to the disciples after his death, surely they did not take away the pain of his loss, or the guilt some of them must have felt about their failure to stand up for him. I doubt that they understood the meaning of the post-resurrection appearances any better than we do. And they certainly must have been anxious about their future, now that their teacher and leader and hope was gone. What was to become of the kingdom of God that Jesus had spoken about? What were they to do next, and who would lead them?
What they did was stick together, and pray together. Maybe that was just to comfort one another in their common loss and bewilderment. But the stories say that Jesus promised they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and they should wait until that happened. That event happened just a few weeks later, on the Jewish festival of Pentecost, according to the story in Acts 2. Soon, these timid and confused disciples were preaching boldly about Jesus, performing miraculous signs, and starting a movement that would transform even the powerful Roman Empire. It turns out that they were the leaders they were waiting for, and the Holy Spirit gave them all the gifts they needed to continue the work that Jesus had begun.
Our Senior Minister, Rev. Chris Braudaway-Bauman, has left for a three-month sabbatical. There may be some among us who wonder what the church will do in her absence. Sabbaticals can be anxious times for churches, but they need not be. The Church of Jesus has been through tougher times before. Certainly we are not facing an unknown future like those first disciples were. We know how long this time will last. Plans have been put in place to carry on administrative tasks while Chris is away. We have gifted and committed ministers and leaders to share the work. And maybe some of us will discover gifts we didn’t even know we had during this time.
Sabbaticals can be wonderfully productive times in the life of a church. Hopefully, Chris will find new energy and vision for the next stage of our journey as a church. We can re-discover that the real Head of the Church is not the minister, but the Risen One. In the meantime, we can continue to gather and worship and pray, and even have fun together, as we wait for the empowering leadership of the Holy Spirit.