Today’s author is Prince of Peace’s Director of Visitation and Cong. Care, Debbie Jorgens.

Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

Millions of people will be looking up today as a total solar eclipse crosses North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. This phenomenon, which happens when the moon passes between the sun and earth, completely blocking the face of the sun, will cause the sky to darken as if it were dawn or dusk.

The United States experienced a total solar eclipse just seven years ago, but after tomorrow, the next one won’t happen for us until 2044. As was the case in 2017, people living in partial eclipse areas are traveling en masse to cities on the path of totality so they can fully experience this amazing astronomical event.

But whether we’re in a partial-eclipse area or are lucky enough to be in the path of totality, how can we not look up, given this extraordinary spectacle?

In reading through Sunday’s text (Acts 1:1-14), I was struck by the question the angels ask the disciples: “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” I want to ask these angels, “Why do you think they’re looking up?” The answer seems pretty obvious to me!

Just seconds ago, Jesus was standing right there with the disciples. And as soon as he had finished what he was saying, he was literally lifted up off the ground before their very eyes, ascending into heaven until a cloud took Jesus out of their sight. Of course they’re going to be looking up!

With Jesus gone from their midst, the disciples return to Jerusalem to wait there, as Jesus had instructed. They must have pondered Jesus’ last words to them – that that they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit and they would be his witnesses. In light of this, were they perplexed that Jesus had instructed them to wait? After all, waiting and witnessing don’t seem to go hand in hand.

Waiting is hard, even under the best of circumstances. And when the situation is difficult or uncertain, waiting can be excruciating. But the disciples do not wait alone, nor do they wait passively. They remain together, “constantly devoting themselves to prayer.” This time of waiting prepares the disciples to become Jesus’ witnesses because it allows them to be more attentive to God and to respond in ways that God intends.

It feels contrary for us, individually and collectively as the Church, to wait when there are so many people in need and so much work to be done. We feel the pressure to respond, to do something. After all, doesn’t God call us to act? And yet, sometimes – like the disciples – we’re called to sit in community, and pray, and wait to see how the Spirit chooses to work through us to bear witness to the resurrected Jesus.

The disciples had no idea as to how the future would unfold. But they would receive the Holy Spirit, and that’s all they would need to carry out their mission. It would be far from easy. There would be tremendous challenges and profound sacrifices. But God’s Spirit would lead them and remain with them through it all.

In 1957, the people who came together in Roseville, Minnesota, to form a new community of faith called, “Prince of Peace Lutheran Church” also had no idea as to how the future would unfold. But from day one, the Spirit has continued to empower us as we strive to live out the mission we share with those early Apostles: “We are claimed, gathered, and sent to build the Church and love the world.”

“Why do you stand there looking up?” the angels asked the disciples and then added, “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” As if to say, “Don’t worry. Jesus will return. But for now, it’s time to take your eyes off of heaven and look around you. Because you’re the ones who are going to carry on his mission.”

We don’t know what’s in store for us. But may we learn to wait upon God, pray for discernment, and then follow wherever the Spirit leads. Because there’s plenty that needs to be done. And we don’t have to worry, because we’ve already been given exactly what we need to do the work.

Thanks be to God!