“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky (Acts 1:1-11)?” Jesus had just ascended into heaven and the disciples were dumbfounded. They had been riding on huge waves of emotion for days. His terrible death on the cross. Then, his astonishing and life changing resurrection from the dead. They knew he was going to have to leave them, yet, when the moment happened, all they could do was stare up to the heavens. As the disciples gazed into the sky, they were no doubt asking themselves, “Now, what do we do?”
Asking what we do now is a central question for disciples of Jesus. Our mission is to bring the life and love of the resurrected and ascended Jesus into the world. Each new day, each new experience and circumstance is an invitation to put our faith into action and to discern how to do that. After almost 40 years as a priest, I have learned to keep a few things in mind in discerning what the Lord would have us do in response to what unfolds in our lives, the lives of others and the world.
First, it is important to see the bigger picture. No event or situation happens in isolation. There are things that cause and influence what happens. What happens has an influence beyond the specific occurrence. It is clear the bigger picture was important to Jesus as he instructs us to go to the ends of the earth with his message (John 14:23-29). You cannot get much bigger than that.
Next, as we grapple with what to do now in response to a life event, remember, we are not in this alone. We live our life in Jesus together, as a Church. Jesus taught us to pray “our” Father, not “my” Father. He spoke to the apostles as a group, not one by one. He sent them out two by two. Whatever we do in his name is not a solo act. It is in communion with each other.
Finally, no matter what the event or circumstance, it all belongs to God. Sometimes it is tough to surrender our need to control to God. It can be even harder to trade in our insistence that there is always something we can do for the admission that sometimes there is nothing we can do. It all belongs to God. Now, what do we do?
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith