May I speak in the name of the Triune God,

Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit.

Amen.

I find myself standing with the disciples this week.

I’m standing with the disciples in the book of Acts and asking:

“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the Kingdom to Israel?”

I’m with the early church hearing Peter’s words:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

I dunno Peter… There are a lot of strange things happening around me,

And most of them have been pur-etty surprising.

And I see that devil out there a-prowling,

And he’s tryin to devour all sorts of folks…

Given the current state of our world,

It’s been too easy for me to lose focus and perspective,

To be just another confused disciple

And to think that this is all there is –

Whether “THIS” is politics or student loans or broken down cars or redlined neighborhoods or health care bills or women’s rights or…

A thousand things try to consume my attention,

To take over my nights with anxiety,

To make it hard to sleep.

I have daydreams that fill me with dread.

I’ve found myself agitated, constantly checking my phone,

Hoping –

For something, for nothing that will have changed in the last ten minutes.

“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the Kingdom to Israel?”

… Now?

… … … What about now?

Unfortunately, standing with the disciples, listening to Jesus

Kind of only makes it worse:

“It’s not for you to know the times or periods the Father has set by his own authority.”

Then he ascends into the sky,

And then, when the disciples are still staring at the clouds,

Trying to figure out what just happened

The angels appear:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Oh.

Right.

Well, that clears everything up.

As I stand here with the disciples,

Confused,

I’m grateful to be led by those same confused disciples:

They simply return to Jerusalem.

To the upper room where they were staying, together,

They return to the ordinary.

They haven’t had a flash of understanding.

No spiritual wisdom has been given to them –

Yes, angels appeared.

They saw Jesus ascend into heaven-

But no one told them what it meant.

Or why it happened.

No one explained it to them in clear, concise language

Or gave them clear action steps.

All the disciples could do

Was all they’d been doing:

They went back

And gathered in their Upper Room,

No less confused,

But at least reassuringly normal.

Unsure of how or when God’s power would come to them,

Of what it would look like or how exactly they would get to the ends of the earth

To become Christ’s witnesses,

They return to the ordinary patterns of their life.

If you’ll permit me for a minute,

Let me draw back the curtain

On what we’ve done in youth group and in pilgrimage this year,

On what our “Upper Room” looks like.

At the end of every meeting here at the church,

We go into the library and turn on the lamps.

It’s pretty ordinary.

And we share our highs and our lows with each other.

While I do give them a talk about the circle of trust, and that what we share in the circle stays in the circle,

I then encourage them to share

The normal events from their week that excited them or made them happy,

The usual things that bummed them out or stole their joy since the last time we met.

It’s pretty ordinary.

And some of them listen attentively.

Some of them say “My low is that school isn’t out yet.

My high is that school is almost out.”

Some pretty talkative ones launch into minutes-long stories,

Sharing details and commentary about their days.

Some of them interject into every story and have to be calmed down.

Some don’t want to share because the group is too big – and that’s ok too.

Some of them are confused about what we are doing.

Some of them are confused about why this sharing matters.

All of us – myself included – are pretty confused about our lives.

It’s pretty ordinary…

Except for it’s effects.

Slowly, over time, I’ve seen shy teenagers open up

And start to share real stuff about their lives.

I’ve seen teenagers rush to encourage each other,

To help fight each others battles,

To show gentleness and care and concern for each other.

I’ve watched them cast their anxiety on to each other

And find it repaid with love.

They are devoting themselves to the kinds of awareness,

Of presence,

Of caring,

Of listening and of loving

That make up the act of prayer.

I’ve worried, sometimes, that I haven’t spoken enough or taught enough about God, the nature of God, the stories of God, the mystery of God.

But I tell you the truth –

My truth, anyway, as best I can study or discern or trust or hope it into being –

This is how we are becoming disciples,

Becoming One with each other,

And – if I may be so bold – answering Jesus’ prayers:

“And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

I may not have taught enough about God,

But I believe I have created a space –

One that Krista Tippett would call Quiet, Inviting and Trustworthy –

And that I’ll call ordinary –

Where we have experienced God.

Jesus oneness with His Father, with the Spirit,

Three somehow intertwining, co-inhering,

The eternal mystery of the three-in-one,

At the very core of existence a strange and holy relationship,

The spiritual reality of fully knowing and being fully known.

A never-ending flow of life, love, trust, and joy.

We may be one, as they are one.

We can * participate in this mystical life of God.

It can be an ordinary thing!

Too often,

When we hear the language of Spiritual “gifts:”

Mercy – justice – wisdom – love, trust, community, intimacy-

We think “either I have it or I don’t,”

That those who do must somehow be extraordinary.

But just as there is no law against any of those things,

So also there is nothing that keeps any of us from developing them

As a skill or as a muscle,

Not as a gift given to us or not,

But as a gift we hone and cultivate and give to others.

We may find it extraordinary.

But the path to get there

Is often more ordinary than we’ve yet imagined –

A sign that it is truly God’s power,

And not really our own.

Are you confused about God?

About doctrine?

About theology?

About the bible?

About prayer?

About why the world or the country or this city is the way it is?

The I invite you.

Come and stand with me – and with the disciples-

And stare into the clouds and wonder.

But then –

After having stared into the infinite mystery of Jesus’ life and love –

Find your “Upper Room,”

The ordinary people with whom you can devote yourselves to prayer,

The groups of friends who are truly devoted to each other.

Start by taking small, vulnerable risks to share about your stress and sorrows,

To build the skills of community and intimacy,

To develop the talents of trust and love,

To strengthen the muscle of Joy.

And with your own community of disciples,

Wait for God’s Spirit to come and bind you together,

Bind you into the mystical life of the Triune God,

And to be open to becoming God’s ordinary witnesses here,

And now,

And to the ends of the earth.

Amen.