Last Thursday, the Pray-as-you-go app (the one Bev Galloway introduced to us during the Soul Feast series) was based on Acts 1:1-11 as last Thursday was the Feast of the Ascension.
This time, between the Ascension and Easter, was, as the writer of Acts says, a time when Jesus “presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” And in the reflection the question was asked, “What has your experience been over the past 40 days since Easter Sunday and in what ways has Jesus presented himself alive to you?”
And so as the Great Lord’s Day (the 50 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost) comes to an end (or a new beginning) today, can I ask you that question, “In what ways – over the last 50 days – has Jesus presented himself alive to you?” How would you answer?
You already know – from the last two Sundays – some of the ways I would answer that question.
Jesus has presented himself alive to me in the stories of faith of saints ancient and modern. St Columba in the sixth century (it blows my mind that that was less than 600 years since the time of Christ), who was known for his radical trust in God’s direction – the story of him setting out in a rudderless boat – and for engaging with those who did not share his faith – the story of his encounter with the Pictish chieftain, Emchath – so warmly and invitingly. St Cuthbert, too, who knew a call from God to serve the priories at Melrose and Lindisfarne, preaching and healing, delighting in nature – the seals and otters were said to come to him – and in seeking time alone with God. And the people we met in our travels, modern day equivalents of these saints, who showed us hospitality and generosity and demonstrated their care for the earth and its people.
Also, the images of those communities of monks who faithfully prayed and praised, night and day, in good times and in bad. And the spaces and places in our faith community where we do the same, faithfully praising God, bringing our needs to God and sharing the work and struggle of witnessing to our faith with each other.
The last way Jesus has presented himself alive to me over the last 50 days – and this one might surprise you – is in last Sunday’s church meeting. In many ways the news is not good. Attendance is sporadic and falling. Offerings are down. Our thank offering is currently $13,000 less than last year. We are moving into this year with a deficit budget. But it felt as though Jesus was with us, as we, as a community, genuinely wrestled with what these means for our own sense of discipleship and for our shared commitment to the ongoing life and ministry of this church. It felt like we were in this together – and the Holy Spirit was with us.
Come, Holy Spirit! Amen!