There are times when it’s tough to figure out what God is telling you.
That’s true not just for us, today. It must also have been true for the first followers of Christ – who often received mixed messages from the Lord.
Consider the account Luke provides of Jesus’ ascension into heaven.
‘Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. And he said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things, and behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you…’
OK – clear enough: It’s their job (and ours) to spread the Good News ‘to all the nations.’
Then, Luke reports, Jesus adds a postscript:
‘But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’
‘Stay in the city…’ ? Really?
You couldn’t blame the apostles, I suppose, if they stared back at the Lord with a quizzical look on their faces. (I know when I read that line, I started humming a certain punk classic from The Clash)
Nor was it only the original band of Christians who often appeared to have less than a full set of marching orders in hand. I love the story Luke tells in Acts – about a certain trip that Paul made to ‘the interior of the country’ where he found some recent converts:
He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They answered him, ‘We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’
Both Jesus and Paul make good on the promised descent of the Holy Spirit, of course – a point that I find particularly consoling (and energizing) as we anticipate Pentecost this week.
I also find it interesting to note the conditions under which the Holy Spirit shows up in these two episodes: It’s when the believers are gathered in community. That’s when they receive the full measure of the power they’ve been promised. That’s when they begin to understand their commission as witnesses and evangelists.
So I have to ask: Where are you planning to be this Pentecost Sunday?
And: Are you preparing your heart to receive its marching orders?
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.