May 13, 2018
(Acts 1:1-11; Mark 16:15-20)
Love it or hate it, we live by our calendars.
There was a time when many of us carried them in our pockets, briefcases or purses. Paper calendars showed us when we had to be where.
Then came the digital revolution, and some of us traded in our leather-bound planners for PDAs, personal digital assistants. We learned a new way of writing the alphabet so that we could quickly add new appointments to our Palm Pilots using the stylus.
Then Steve Jobs and the people at Apple combined our PDAs, phones and MP3 players into smartphones. While we might have left our planners or PDAs at home on a Sunday morning, today most of us have our calendars with us even in worship. I never quite got over using the stylus of my former Palm Pilots, however, so I have owned a Samsung Note of one variation or another just so I can still have the stylus that I got so used to in the 90’s and after.
Digital calendars can do things our paper calendars never could. They remind us of things we need to do based on our time and / or location. Like remembering when Joe’s interview was this week so I could stop what I was doing and send up a text message to the Holy Spirit. Siri/Cortana/Alexa/Google/Bixby, remind me when it is time to leave for my doctor's appointment." Then, based on your location and the traffic, your phone can tell you when it is time to leave. Isn’t it wonderful? It’s like having our moms with us all over again!
Once we put an appointment into our phones, we never have to look at it again. We can simply wait for that little buzz to interrupt us, sometimes during worship, to remind us of what we need to attend to later in the day.
Digital, paper or in our heads, our calendars tend to drive large portions of our lives. We are a time frenzied humanity.
In our Monday-through-Friday lives, many are required to be connected to their company's calendars through Outlook or some other calendar / planning app. Supervisors and colleagues can put things on our calendars, and expect us to be in the appropriate place at the appointed time. No time to slack off at work any longer.
Truth is, we rely on our calendars to organize our lives. From the boardroom to the classroom, it is hard to get by without some idea of what will be happening -- and when.
So imagine how the very first followers of Jesus must have felt about his answer when they asked about what was next. This is the nature of the conversation in Acts 1 -- today's reading. Basically, Jesus is having a final debriefing before leaving on a trip -- a vertical and heavenly one. And, of course, they have questions.
"Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" the disciples asked. The question makes sense. They had been on an emotional roller coaster with Jesus in recent days.
For three years, they followed him. They heard him talk frequently about a special time to come. He started his ministry telling them that the kingdom of God - the kingdom of heaven was at hand.
They listened as he told stories about banquets, mustard seeds and treasure buried in a field that he said were ways of describing this new reality to come.
They were with him when he entered Jerusalem several weeks earlier. They saw the crowd waving palm branches and shouting their praises. By riding a donkey into the city, Jesus was fulfilling a prophecy that announced God's rule and reign. It was a huge statement. Surely, they thought, this must be the time.
At the Last Supper, he seemed to confirm it. "I will not drink the fruit of the vine again until I drink it with you in my Father's kingdom." Next stop, the kingdom of God, they must have thought.
Instead of a coronation, however, there was a crucifixion. It appeared to be over. Their hopes were dashed. The dream of the restoration of the kingdom seemed to vanish. What now?
Then, as quickly as it was over, it was back on. Jesus is alive. Hope is not lost. Certainly, the kingdom must be coming now!?!
After 40 days of being with a post-resurrection Jesus during which he continued to teach them about God's kingdom, he calls a special meeting. Expectations must have been high. What was he going to do? What was he going to say?
It had to be time for him to announce how the kingdom of God will come on earth as it is in heaven, just as he taught them to pray.
The question must have hung in the air that day, like questions saturate the space among and between us in some of our interactions.
~ When the company calls an all-staff meeting during a down economy, everyone wants to know, "Are there going to be layoffs?"
~ When the person you are dating says, "We need to talk," you want to know, "Are we breaking up?"
~ When a teenage child enters a room, head down, and says, "Mom? Dad?" heart rates accelerate. We want to know, "Is something wrong?"
For the crowd that day, the tension is almost unbearable. "Now? We want to get this on our calendars, so if not now, when?"
They want to pencil in the kingdom day. They want to know which week they need to clear for this world-altering event. They want to know the deadline so they can be sure to be ready.
To these questions, Jesus gives a bewildering answer. "That's none of your concern."
He actually says it more politely, but that's the gist of it. "Let me worry about the timing," he seems to say. "You just get to work on what you are supposed to do."
Then he's gone like Superman … up, up and away!
The disciples and the rest of the followers are left bewildered, staring into the sky.
The disciples have a scheduling problem, and for them, and for those of us who live by our calendars, Jesus' attitude is frustrating.
It's hard to leave things in the hand of God; Hard to let go and let God take care of details; Hard to trust in divine providence to be faithful to promises made.
How are we to respond to this? It's not for me to know the "times and seasons"? Really?! How am I supposed to function with so little information? As the British would say, “I must have a sssheshual!”
The problem is that the kingdom of God doesn't fit into our calendars – or sssheshuals. Jesus doesn't give us a list of tasks we can put in our phones.
Instead, he calls his followers to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The timing concerning any ultimate physical expression of the reign of God on earth, he says, is for him to worry about and, in any event, he himself doesn't know! He had already told his disciples (maybe they forgot) that "about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:26).
Our concern is to live into the mission of the Church and the call of God today. It is not about getting ready for some later date. Our role is to be the people of God every day, and do what God wants us to do right now.
We aren't cramming for a final exam. We aren't trying to meet a deadline before the Supervisor in the Sky calls us in for our performance review. This is a here-and-now, everyday issue.
Jesus calls his followers, both those on the hill that day and those in our pews today, to live for him at home, work and school, in our traveling, while running errands and wherever else life takes us.
This includes our calendars and our schedules – and even sssheshuals. It's time to take our calendars and bless them, sprinkle them with holy water, say a prayer over them, but do something to sanctify our time and put it wholly in the service of God and for God's work.
This means, of course, penciling in time for worship, prayer, Bible study, performing random acts of charity, being faithful to your relationship responsibilities and being flexible enough to respond when God interrupts you, messes with your calendar and lifts you, like Philip in a whirlwind, to minister in some wholly unexpected way.
Thing is, when you sign up to follow Jesus, you're going to have a ton of scheduling problems. Get used to it. Get over it. It is part of the thrill and challenge that we call ... discipleship!
Let us pray.
We pray for the wisdom, the faith and the love of God to be witnesses in today’s unbelieving world to His Holy Word. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for those in our church who have followed the invitation of Jesus to proclaim the good news to the world, that they may be true witnesses to His Truth, by word and example. We pray to the Lord.
We remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers. We pray to the Lord.
That in moments of doubt we may always remember that Jesus is with us, even to the end of the age. We pray to the Lord.
That as members of the Body of Christ we be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, being the presence of Christ in the world. We pray to the Lord.
That those who have looked on Jesus with faith, in this life, may now enjoy the glorious inheritance among the saints. We pray to the Lord.
That the Ascension may increase our awareness of the dignity of every human life, created to share life forever in the heights of heaven. We pray to the Lord.
That those who are in need of hope be inspired by the Ascension of our Lord and trust firmly that God offers them eternal happiness and the means to obtain it. We pray to the Lord.
That all mothers may experience the profound joy and gratitude of being vessels of life and of faith for their children. We pray to the Lord.
God of glory, as we commemorate this day when your Son Jesus was exalted in great triumph, hear our petitions and send us your Spirit of truth. Thanks to the Ascension of your Son, our human nature is now at home with you in heaven. And Father God, by no small significance, we also commemorate this day to all mothers; in your divine will, you made Our Lady Mary pure from the moment of conception so as she might be a model of all mothers. May her inspiration live on in all mothers this day. Fill us all with you spirit this day. We ask all this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA