Are you feeling high and lifted up, in this rarefied air, at the end of a stimulating and encouraging conference? It’s a good day to celebrate Ascension. Yet we have to recognize that the band of disciples who hung around Jerusalem after Jesus’ execution didn’t always feel terribly inspired or hopeful. They had a few encounters with the risen one, but they didn’t always recognize him, and even when he told them who he was, they weren’t always certain. Now he’s physically gone from their midst, and they’ve been told to wait in Jerusalem until they get some strength and comfort. How long will they wait? Who knows?
Well, friends, I think you’ve found some powerful assurance in these last few days. For one, you’re not alone. There is quite a team gathered here, and it represents a much larger network of missioners and disciples. This body is like the handful of disciples watching Jesus rise into the clouds. There are some wonderful old paintings and stained-glass windows that show just his feet, hanging out from under the cloud into which he’s disappeared. Those feet are here, along with Jesus’ hands and heart and spirit. In a very real sense, those disciples couldn’t get to work until Jesus left – while he was there, they wanted him to fix everything. He kept telling them, “you feed them” and “you heal them,” but they never really got started until he was no longer there to do it for them.
Did you notice what they say to him? “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” They want to know if it’s all over, if they can knock off work and go fishing, or take a vacation because everything’s been fixed. And Jesus goes on to tell them that nobody but God knows when the work will be finished, but strength and power is coming in the form of Holy Spirit. And when that happens it’ll be time to really get to work – telling the world about what God is doing, and not just here, but everywhere, all across the known world!
This gathering has been a way to equip that band of witnesses – with hope, courage, and the boldness of the holy spirit – a reminder that no one goes alone, and that we are an community of solidarity, interdependent in all we are and do. We share a vision of healed world where no one is hungry, ill, oppressed, or excluded from the blessings of creation or abundant life, because we are created to live in a community of justice and peace. We’ve been given a great fount of wisdom and blessing in this interconnected body, infused with resurrection hope. The only question is whether we’re willing to put that fund of hope and blessing to work.
The body gathered here has learned new skills, made new connections, seen remarkable mission in action, and built and strengthened relationships for God’s work of healing. As you return home filled with hope and possibility, remember to share these new gifts with other partners who weren’t here in person, and to keep learning from others out there in the global mission field. Some are laboring in the field of human trafficking, some teach others to grow food or harvest water more effectively, some plot economic development for the poorest, and some figure out how to fund all of it. Others are waging peace in Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, or the Middle East. In some parts of the world, those who vaccinate children or educate girls or liberate the poor are offering their very lives out of this audacious and holy hope. In all those labors we believe that God has given us what is necessary. We believe this underlies efforts toward self-sustainability.
God can use your gifts, whatever they are. God can use your gifts, if you’re willing to connect with other witnesses to resurrection hope. God can use your gifts, your skills, and your life, and will use them as soon as you know the power of Holy Spirit. Recognize the boldness that is coming with tongues of fire, and use it in every part of God’s global mission field. Jesus is risen and ascended, and his body remains here, healing, teaching, feeding the hungry, delivering prisoners, and laboring for justice. Together Christ’s body can and will reconcile and heal this world. ¡Si, se puede!