We read it last week at this time (Acts 1:1-11). The story of how, after his suffering, he showed himself to his followers convincing them he was alive. How he told them to wait for the gift promised by his Father. The Holy Spirit who would empower them for the immense task that lay ahead.
The Holy Spirit would inaugurate them into the next stage of the mission of God in Jesus, to take the good news of the Kingdom to the very ends of the earth. Good news for the poor, good news for prisoners, good news for the blind and the oppressed, that the time of God’s favour had arrived.
And then, the Scriptures say, he departed. Taken from before their very eyes.
Two men, dressed in white stood beside them and asked a question. We read it last week and it has been rebounding in my head ever since.
Why do you stand here? they said.
Now there’s a question worth asking. Why do you stand here?
Why do I stand here? Not here, behind this lectern this morning. But here. In this place, as opposed to all the other places I could be standing, or lying, this morning.
Why, Sunday after Sunday, do I choose to stand here with all of you?
Why do you stand here? I guess there will be as many answers as there are questioners?
You stand here out of habit? Well, as habits go, it’s not a bad one. From custom and tradition perhaps? Not all traditions are to be disdained. Dragged by your parents? All I can say is, hang in there, it will all make sense in time. But it’s worth asking—why do you stand here?
I’ve thought a lot about the question this week and I think I might answer it today in this way. I stand here because I believe the local church is the best means of change that God has chosen. We stand here not in order to sing hymns, or preach sermons, we stand here week after week to affirm again and again what animates us, motivates us, drives us forward and satisfies us. That is what matters about our standing here.
I stand here because I am foolish enough to believe that the people of God are here for the transformation of the world, person by person, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, village and town and city and nation. And there is no other community of people called and empowered and purposed as we are.
But I learned one other thing this week, that standing here is not enough. The two men in white asked why are you standing, and then said, ‘this same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back’. Between this, his first going away, and his return we are to do his work, be his hands and feet, so that all the world will know the Good News, and we begin in standing, here on the Silverbirch Road, but then walking, on and on, to the ends of the earth.
a reflection used in Ballycrochan Presbyterian Church on Sunday 9th May 2010