Tim’s Daily Bread Devotional 5.13.22

By May 13, 2022Daily Bread

Good morning!

I hope this day finds you and your family well. I invite you to take a few moments with me to read and reflect upon today’s scripture selection — and to carry these thoughts with you into your day.

Today’s Scripture: Acts 1:1-8 (Common English Bible)

Theophilus, the first scroll I wrote concerned everything Jesus did and taught from the beginning, right up to the day when he was taken up into heaven. Before he was taken up, working in the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus instructed the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom. While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?”

Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

 

Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today

Last words are important.  We strive to remember the last words we heard a loved one speak.  We often remember and quote the last words of famous or well-known people.  For example,

Bing Crosby (1904-1977) had just sunk his final putt during a game of golf when he turned to the spectators, acknowledged their applause, and, just before he turned toward the clubhouse, collapsed and died, he spoke his last words to the crowd: “It was a great game.”

On the last day of Thomas Edison’s (1847-1931) life, his wife leaned close and asked, “Are you suffering?” to which he replied, “No, just waiting.” Edison then looked out of his bedroom window and softly spoke his last words: “It’s very beautiful over there.”

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), a fervent abolitionist and one of the most influential American clergymen of the 1800s, just before he died, said, “Now comes the mystery.”

The last words of John Wesley (1703 – 1791), the founder of Methodism, were, “Best of all, God is with us.”

We pay attention to last words and there are a couple of key passages of scripture that contain the last words of the Risen Christ to his disciples.

One is Matthew 28:16-20.  Following his death and resurrection, the disciples gathered on a mountain in Galilee and met the risen Christ there.  Jesus last words to his disciples in Matthew were “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  And then he added, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The other passage of scripture is our reading for today—Acts 1:1-8.  There, Jesus says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

In 2008 the General Conference of The United Methodist Church passed legislation introduced by the lay leaders of the Annual Conferences throughout the denomination.  It amended the membership vow to include upholding and supporting the church not only with prayers, presence, gifts and service, but it added another one: witness.

Today’s passage from the Bible is a kind of mission statement from the Risen Christ to his disciples:  “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I remember attending a retreat when I was in college when the retreat leader picked seven or eight of us to come forward—not my favorite thing to do!  She gave us one instruction:  form a circle.  We gathered in a circle, facing each other.

The leader then asked, “Is this the only kind of circle you can make?” After a few perplexed moments, we joined hands, making the circle a little closer.

Again, she asked, “Is this the only kind of circle you can make?”  We then spread out with hands still joined.

She asked again.  We then put our arms across our shoulders.

She asked again.  We then pulled closely together, like a football huddle.

Again…we sat down.

Again…we stood shoulder-to-shoulder, arms at our sides.

We went through a dozen different inward-facing combinations before someone suggested that we face outward.  Then someone suggested that we face sideways to see inward and outward.  Someone else suggested alternating inward and outward.  Suddenly there were another dozen or so possibilities for the group as we discovered that a group can look inward and outward at the same time.

Of course that was the point of the retreat leader and she posed the question:  Why did the group take so long to begin looking outward?  What possibilities opened up for the group when it began to get really creative in its circle-making?  And, she finally asked, Can anyone in this room think of other possibilities for this group?  There were a few suggestions about shape and form and little tweaks like locking arms, touching elbows, touching shoes…but no substantial changes.  The whole retreat had run out of ideas.

Then she asked:  Did it occur to anyone to open up the circle and invite others in? No, it hadn’t.  We were captivated by our own circle: its shape, its form, its connection, its members, etc. and lost sight of those outside the circle.  The circle stayed the same in number and scope and, as a matter of fact, vision.

When Jesus began his ministry, he formed a little circle of followers.  There were 3 in the so-called inner circle—Peter, James and John.

There were 12 in the larger, but still close-knit circle of his disciples.

There were others who were followers of Jesus that formed an even larger circle—70 or so—these are the ones the Bible tells us Jesus sent out to minister to others.

By the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, there was a group, the apostle Paul tells us, that numbered more than 500 who together witnessed the risen Christ following the resurrection.

On the Day of Pentecost the circle added more than 3,000.  In Jesus’ ministry there was an ever-widening circle.

Jesus taught his disciples to dream of new ways of making circles!  He taught them that a circle of people can turn outward and see beyond themselves.  He taught them that a circle of people can turn to the side, so that every member of the circle can look in and pay attention to the other members’ needs and look out at the needs of those outside the circle.  Most of all, Jesus taught that circles can grow and circles can multiply.  They can open up and welcome new people in.  Circles become wider and wider, if they are Christ-like circles.  They can multiply as people are sent out from the circle to begin new ones.

It is common to talk about “upward mobility.”  Jesus did not teach upward mobility. Jesus taught outward mobility.  The community of faith, the circle of believing disciples, must face the world with its message—we must be outwardly mobile. Following the resurrection, Jesus said to his disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Do you hear what Jesus is calling the disciples to do?  Do you hear what Jesus is calling the church to do?  Calling US to do?

If you imagine a map of the Holy Land in your mind, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and then to the ends of the earth describes an ever-widening circle.  I live in Fort Worth, Texas, so I can imagine it this way:  “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Fort Worth, in all Tarrant County and Texas, and to the ends of the earth.”

It is an ever-widening circle!

 

Hymn: “Spirit of Faith, Come Down” by Charles Wesley (1746)

Spirit of faith, come down,
reveal the things of God,
and make to us the Godhead known,
and witness with the blood.
‘Tis thine the blood to apply
and give us eyes to see,
who did for every sinner die
hath surely died for me.

No one can truly say
that Jesus is the Lord,
unless thou take the veil away
and breathe the living Word.
Then, only then, we feel
our interest in his blood,
and cry with joy unspeakable,
“Thou art my Lord, my God!”

O that the world might know
the all atoning Lamb!
Spirit of faith, descend and show
the virtue of his name;
the grace which all may find,
the saving power, impart,
and testify to humankind,
and speak in every heart.

Inspire the living faith
(which whosoe’er receive,
the witness in themselves they have
and consciously believe),
the faith that conquers all,
and doth the mountain move,
and saves whoe’er on Jesus call,
and perfects them in love.

Thank you for sharing this moment of your day with me, with God, and with these reflections on a portion of scripture.  I hope you will carry these with you throughout your day and night.

Grace and Peace,


Dr. Tim Bruster
Senior Pastor

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