Monday, May 22, 2017

Ascension Day – What are you waiting for?

Thursday, May 25th is Ascension Day. It is the day in the Christian calendar when we remember Christ’s ascension into heaven. It happened 40 days after the resurrection (Easter) and it is recorded in the Book of Acts.

Jesus was telling the disciples that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and all the ends of the earth. Then Jesus ascended and a cloud took him out of their sight. “While they were gazing into heaven two men stood by them in white robes and asked, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

During the recent Council of Bishops meeting I had a conversation with Bishop Christian Alsted from Denmark. He explained that in his country Ascension Day is a national holiday. Some of the churches have torch-led processions around the church building to remember Jesus’ ascension and to officially end the season of Easter. They also bless fruits and vegetables at the churches, and people have an off-day from work.

It is interesting to me how little we observe Ascension Day in the United States in our churches, when truly, this is a day of great significance. The men in white, who spoke to those first apostles have a message for us as well: “Just don’t stand there looking up, get busy.”

Jesus is coming again and we need to be about the business of being witnesses for Jesus in our day and time. We need to be out of our church buildings and into the world blessing not only fruits and vegetables but the lives of people in our community and the world.

We have not fully completed our celebration of Easter if we are not making the church visible to the world by our witness of words and love in action. This is time-sensitive business. Jesus is coming again and unless we tell the story people will not know the good news of Jesus’ life-giving grace for all people.

So what are you waiting for? Tell your story, tell Christ’s story, and see how far the good news will spread.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

God bless the Babushkas

Recently I had lunch with two United Methodist pastors from Russia who are visiting some of their supporting churches. 

The place of the church in Russian in the 21st century is better than in the past when the Communist revolution swept into the country. But according to the Christian Science Monitor, Russia has emerged nowadays as the most God-believing nation in Europe.

The missionaries I spoke to credit much of this to the Babushkas*, who kept the faith alive during the state-sponsored repression. They were the grandmothers, with head-scarves and wrinkled faces, who were dismissed and ridiculed by the Communist leadership because of their religious belief. But they refused to give up their faith and kept it alive in secret and through their witness.

As we think about mothers during this Mother’s Day weekend we need to reflect on the faith that women, mothers and grandmothers often bring to a godless world. Often it is the quiet voice that is the most tenacious and strong. I give thanks for those faithful women in Russia who never gave up on their faith in God.

Never underestimate the power of your faith, even when you are seen as insignificant, misguided or old-fashioned. It will strengthen, sustain and save you in the end, giving you victory when all else fails and has fallen away.

*Babushkas are literally head scarves worn by Russian women that cover most or all of the top of their hair and heads, leaving their faces uncovered.

For another testimony about the faithfulness of the Russian, Christian women often called Babushkas, read the Christian Forum blog post "Thank God for the Babushkas."