Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day: Acts 1

Today is Mother's Day. My family will celebrate my wonderful mother Janet Page and remember my kids' wonderful mother Diane Page; or, as she often liked to call herself with a laugh, "the other Mrs. Guy Page." We are also celebrating Joe's 18th birthday (May 6), and the party at my mom's house today will do double duty as his FOURTH birthday party celebration. The cake my sister Sarah made him Friday was decorated with emblems of adulthood: a credit card, a toy soldier, a pack of candy cigarettes, even the Playboy bunny logo (gee thanks, Sarah!).

And speaking of Mothers: two godly moms who read this blog referenced the same scripture after reading the post about the death of OBL. Ezekiel 33:11 says, "As surely as I live, declares the sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their wicked ways and live."

So on a day of departures and new beginnings and visions for the future, I ponder Acts 1. Jesus the Messiah, described in Isaiah 53 as the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, has already told his disciples that they will be sad at his leaving but that their sorrow will turn to joy, eventually. And now it is time for Jesus to leave them for once and for all, rising into the clouds, until that great gettin' up mornin' when he returns in the same way.

[Long paranthetical defense of the Ascension: if this were Psalms or other poetic scripture, I might say that it's artistic imagery, but Luke is scrupulously factual in his narrative. If he writes it, you can believe he believed it happened, either because he witnessed it himself (as in some of the missionary journeys described later in the book) or heard it firsthand from an apostle or other reliable eyewitness account (Mary in his first book, for example.) So to dismiss the ascension of Christ as embarassing religious folderol, as some do, not only shows a prejudice against the uniqueness of Christ and the power of God, but also does a disservice to the book's terrific author.]

I give the disciples credit for being visionaries: "Then they gathered around him and asked him, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'”

Not unlike many American believers today, they long for godly restoration of their land. Today we pray for the Kingdom to come to America, a restoration of the puritan "shining city on a hill": stronger families, protection of the youngest and the oldest, little crime, peace within and without our borders, victory over addiction and all forms of ungodliness, and above all churches new and old packed with people hearing and obeying the Word. Were these things to happen even in part, I for one would shout loud hallelujahs and thank God for "thy ikingdom come."

There is an old Yiddish proverb that says, "man plans, God laughs." Unfettered by space, time and culture, his Kingdom perspective is so much BIGGER than mine. He told them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

He DOESN'T tell his friends that their country will be restored to its Davidic glory. Because, well, it won't. That's not the plan. History tells us that Israel became even more of a hotbed of insurrection and a thorn in the Roman lion's paw. So Rome did what you might expect: in the eighth decade of the first century, they laid waste to Jerusalem and sold many Jews and presumably Christians (remember Peter being led by others with hands outstretched, as in a line of slaves) into slavery throughout the Empire. And in this way and many others was the Kingdom brought to the Empire and "to the ends of the earth." Not the way I would choose for my family, church or country. Is it possible that some day America's army will be defeated and large armies taken prisoner, and that godly POWs will preach the word to their captors (Islamic? Communist? Who knows)? That would resemble the first century strategy of the Holy Spirit: Saving the World, One Spirit-Filled Slave At A Time. Sometimes the only catalyst for positive change is crisis. As another spiritual says, "I'll be a witness for my Lord." And may those who are enemies of the gospel "turn from their evil ways, and live."

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