Beginning Again

Endings and beginnings can be tricky.

Look at disciples of Jesus. I feel pretty certain that they thought things were over when Jesus was arrested and killed. But then, three days later, he was alive again and perhaps they thought, well, Jesus is back and we can continue on just as before. But no, forty days after that Jesus leaves, not back to the tomb, but “carried up to heaven.” Before he goes, he tells the disciples they they need to tell the story, be witnesses to the world and live out his teaching. He’s going, he says, but the Holy Spirit will come soon and give them “power” to do what they need to. That happens fifty days after Easter and is the story of Pentecost.

This is all according to the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. The same author wrote both Luke and Acts and they read like one continuous story: part one (the Gospel) is the story of Jesus and part two (Acts) is the disciples and followers of Jesus sharing the story of Jesus and the earliest days of the communities that become the church. It’s a story worth reading.

Endings and beginnings can be tricky, though. There’s often no clear cut definition between them, like, say, a Part 1 and a Part 2. Sometimes endings and beginnings overlap and it can be hard to get a handle on just when one moment has ended and another has begun. Sometimes there’s a space, an emptiness we might need to navigate through or over which we might need to build a bridge, something, anything, to carry us forward. That may well be where many of us find ourselves with the pandemic, or with life-changing moments or even in our day to day living.

I think the disciples found themselves in that place. Some of them may have felt like they weren’t sure where the journey with Jesus was ending – or if it even was – and where the mission with the Holy Spirit was beginning. Some may have wondered why Jesus left and they had to wait for the Spirit. Some may have wondered what this Spirit was: was it something new or the Spirit that’s been here from the beginning? Some may have wondered why Jesus had to leave at all.

In the midst of all that, they did two things. First, they returned to Jerusalem to wait, as Jesus told them, and they prayed (Acts 1:14). They took time to talk to God. They recognized God’s constant presence and they shared what was in their hearts with God. However we know God, however we might pray, it’s part of our relationship with the God who is present, in each of us and the world. It’s opening our hearts, both to share our thoughts and feelings and to listen for God speaking to us.

The second thing they did was a simple administrative task: there was now only eleven apostles so they elected Matthias to replace Judas. Matthias had been part of the larger group of Jesus’ followers from the beginning and, though he’s not mentioned again, he is the first to be chosen not by the physical Jesus, but in the spirit of Jesus. The first of many.

As they waited for what came next and how the Spirit might move them, they knew God was present and the spirit of Jesus was alive in them. I hope we all do.

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