7th Sunday of Easter, May 24, 2020
– John 17:1-11, Acts 1:6-14
– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –
On this last Sunday of Easter, known as Ascension Sunday, the Bible informs us that as Jesus was about to leave his disciples and ascend to heaven, they still expected him to deal with their immediate desire to unite the nation of Israel under one godly ruler. However, Jesus was quick to refocus their priority not just on Israel, but the entire world.
“When the Holy Spirit comes upon you,” he said, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
No longer was Israel alone the top priority of Jesus, for during the course of his ministry, he recognized other people and communities that yearned for the Spirit of God, including those his people despised, like Canaanite, Samaritans, Romans, along with those his people regarded as filthy and untouchable.
Hearing this story underscores the age-old saying, “The more things change, the more they remain the same,” or still another, “What goes around comes around.” For we as Christians and citizens of this nation and world have been down this road before, where we’ve sought to prioritize our agenda over God’s agenda, or assumed that our priority, be it one of race, religion, class, financial privilege, or national favoritism, was God’s priority as well. But Christ compels us to face the broader picture of God.
This coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to swallow the bitter truth that none of us, regardless of our preconceived notions of status and privilege, are immune from the fatal grip of this disease that can render each of us untouchable.
And as the multinational corporate barons and nations of this world, fueled more by capital than compassion, attempt to rush their workers, desperate for income, back into unsafe working and social settings without a cure, we as Christians must acknowledge the ungodly priority that favors the wealth of a few over the welfare of the rest.
Back in the 1930s, when the world wallowed in the mire of the Great Depression, it took the New Deal priorities of Roosevelt that radically deviated from the norms of the past, to put our nation and world back on track.
Jesus offers a new deal that we may all be one in God’s Holy Spirit, urging us to rethink and realign our priorities from nationalism to globalism; from racist and ethnic bias to a multiracial and multicultural tapestry; from gender preference to the full range of gender identity and sexual orientation; from the wealth of a few to the commonwealth of all. In other words, to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
And could it be possible that when our priorities are broadened and all-inclusive, so might the contours of our faith in God’s redeeming love? Can we as Christians evolve in seeing the world not as that which favors us, but as one where God welcomes all in the one common quest for justice and equality for all? This is my prayer. Amen.