Worship for Sunday, May 29, 2022

Acts 1:1-11

[Luke writes:] 1In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 47

1Clap your hands, all you peoples;
shout to God with a joyful sound.
2For the Lord Most High is to be feared:
a great king over all the earth,
3who subdues the peoples under us,
and the nations under our feet;
4who chooses our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom God loves. 
5God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of the ram’s horn.
6Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our king, sing praises. 
7For God is king of all the earth;
sing praises with a song.
8God reigns over the nations;
God is enthroned on high.
9The nobles of the peoples have gathered as the people of the God of Abraham.  The rulers of the earth belong to God, who is highly exalted.

Ephesians 1:15-23

15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel of Saint Luke 24:44-53

44[Jesus said to the eleven and those with them,] “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Back in the olden days – when I was in seminary – our professors offered us sage advice along with the ancient Greek – Hebrew – church history – and all of the stuff about the Lutheran Reformation and the Bible they were trying to teach us.

Some of their advice was helpful. “Like – tithe means giving 10% of your income to Jesus.   Everything else is an offering!”

Sometimes it was brilliant. “Don’t have kids! Children are outrageously expensive and messy and generally annoying.”   (This professor was a wise woman who was clearly having a bad day or perhaps a bad year . . .)

Sometimes it was weird. “Never make the sign of the cross with your left hand . . . ”   (Okay – I thought we left those superstitions behind us in the Middle Ages with the black cats and the witches!?!?)

Sometimes their advice was downright profound. DO NOT change ANYTHING your first year in a “new to you” church. Seriously – NOTHING. NOT A SINGLE thing except the pastor’s name.

Your parishioners already distrust and probably dislike you because you are not their beloved former pastor. So – if/when you change anything (and I mean ANYTHING) these seemingly gracious – welcoming – warm – loving Lutheran Christians will turn on you. They will suck out your soul – call you the anti-Christ and blame you for everything from the reduced worship attendance to global warming.

“Change nothing” – declared the Greek and Hebrew professors.   And the history professors and our Old and New Testament professors. “Change nothing” – declared the lunch lady – the faculty secretary and the nice guy who shoveled the deep Minnesota snow.

CHANGE NOTHING . . .

I listened. I took note of their not so subtle advice. I changed very little. BUT I still got into trouble. Because there were a few things I couldn’t change about MYSELF.

You see – I was young. (Yes – seriously – there was a time – long – long ago when I was actually young.)

I was female.

I had a husband who I was very fond of. So – I planned on keeping him!

All 3 of these things were huge changes and they kept getting me into trouble! Over and over again. I heard things like – Pastor Mark never . . . or Pastor Rolf never . . .

Okay – so they never wore skirts or had husbands or waddled around 9 months pregnant or needed maternity leave BUT they were MEN!!!!

It seemed I was the very embodiment of CHANGE!?!?!

In spite of these frustrations – I did and do understand.   I understand change can be difficult to embrace. For most folks – change can be hard.

The disciples experience this in our Gospel reading for today.   Actually – the past few weeks have been nothing but incredibly difficult change after change for them.

First came Jesus’ arrest – trial – conviction and his brutal crucifixion. Just hours later Jesus died and then he was quickly buried before the setting sun marked the start of the Sabbath. And then – on Sunday morning – God the Father raised Jesus from the dead!!!

So much change – their heads must have been spinning. Their lives had been turned upside down and inside out over and over again!

And now – this morning – we learn another shocking CHANGE has rocked their world. The Bible tells us Jesus ascended into heaven right in front of the disciples.   One moment Jesus was standing with them – talking to them and teaching them and the next Jesus was ascending into heaven right before their very eyes!

Talk about a shocking change.

Sure – Jesus had tried to prepare them for this incredible day. But honestly – can you ever be prepared for your Lord and Savior to ascend into heaven right in front of you? (Yeah – probably NOT!)

The disciples stood there with tears in their eyes and sorrow in their hearts as they watched Jesus leaving them until they could no longer see him at all.

Deeply shocked – the disciples continue to stand there gazing into the sky – long after Jesus disappeared from sight. In fact – they stand there for such a long time that two angels of the Lord come and ask them – what they are up to.

Of course – the angels already know why the disciples are standing there staring up at the sky. The angels certainly understand how shocked the disciples were.   After all – the Savior of the world doesn’t ascend into heaven every day.

And – God understands too. That’s why the angels were there. God sent the angels to get the disciples moving. Because the disciples can’t stay there gazing up into heaven forever. They can’t stand there longing for what was – and yearning for what they have lost.   They can’t remain focused on the past.   They have to begin to move forward.

It is time!

The same is true for us. For our Christian community. For Saint Stephen Lutheran Church. It is time. It is time for us to get moving again.

It is time to move forward. Time to accept and embrace the dramatic changes that have come into our lives.

Yes – the Covid-19 pandemic has changed us.   Our Christian community looks very   different these days. Folks are missing from worship and from Sunday school and from our committees and our gatherings and our celebrations.

Yes – our hearts long for what was.   Our hearts long for times that felt rosier and easier. Our hearts long – for the “good old days . . .”

And it would be so easy for us to get stuck – sort of like the disciples were – with our eyes and our hearts fixed on what was.   To spend our time wishing for what was.

But we cannot. We are being called into a new future.

Yes – it may be different and feel strange.   Yes – we may need to change?!?!?   We will be asked to adapt and grow.   We will need to be creative – perhaps incredibly creative!

But we do not go into this future alone. We have our Lord and we have one another. We can do this. We can do this together with our Lord. Truly this is Good News! Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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