Letter to the Congregations: 15th April 2023
Our Dear Brethren,
The dust had settled and the city streets were a lot quieter than they were a month and a half ago. The powers that be tried their best to hide the overwhelming evidence of the miraculous events that had taken place there. Some individuals were in denial while others were overwhelmed and still filled with awe. Having returned to Jerusalem, the eleven disciples often gathered with brethren at the temple, "praising and blessing God" as the Feast of Pentecost approached (Luke 24:53). Jesus had told them not to depart from Jerusalem until the time when they would receive the "Promise of the Father, 'which,' He said, 'you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now'" (Acts 1:4-5). These men couldn't fulfill their calling until they had received the Spirit which God the Father would use to write His laws on their hearts and to also guide them and inspire them to speak what He would want them to speak.
Just after He gave His disciples a few last lines of inspiration and direction, Jesus "was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). The men gazed up and watched as their Teacher, their constant guide for more than three years, the Messiah, the Son of God returned to the throne room of His Father to prepare for His return. For that moment, time stood still for the men. They might have been unable to move or to speak for some time if it weren't for two men standing nearby in white apparel interrupting the moment (no doubt angels sent to give them some direction). "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:10-11).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread having just ended, we might find ourselves in a similar manner as the disciples who were left standing, gazing up into heaven waiting for something else to happen. We've just concluded a very inspiring week with uplifting and informative messages, fellowship, prayer, songs of praise. And now we find ourselves waiting for the next moment. We're waiting for the next festival, perhaps watching the skies as we wait. We are to be vigilant and watchful of the signs of the times we are living in. We are to be watching ourselves to make sure we stay on track, watching the events of the world as we see wars and rumors of wars leading the nations of this world toward something that looks more and more like the powerful beast described in the book of Revelation. We are to be watchful of "false christs and false prophets [who] will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:23). But do we sometimes catch ourselves just gazing up into the sky and waiting?
There is a time to gaze up and wait, but there is also a time to bow down our heads and pray, to move our feet as we walk through life, and continue to keep our noses in the pages of our Bibles. The apostle Paul wrote to the congregation in Colossae, reminding them all that he and the other elders of the Church prayed for them. Not just so they would understand the truth, but that they would continue living according to the truth, in hope of the Kingdom of God. In the midst of this letter Paul reminded the congregation to be "fruitful." In other words, they were to be active in their faith, active in serving, active in demonstrating the fact that they were part of the body of Christ.
"For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light" (Colossians 1:9-12).
We need these same reminders for ourselves. We need to be reminded that even though the inspiration from the Feast remains, we must carry on forward, having been strengthened by our God and by His word spoken to us to continue to serve and grow. Now is not the time to gaze up and watch. We must carry on stronger than before. We've been "sanctified" and now have the potential to be "useful for for the Master, prepared for every good work" (2 Timothy 2:21). I pray that God continues to give you the strength for the days ahead, that you continue forward in faith, and that He continues to use you for producing the fruit that He has begun to grow in you all.
Our love is with you,
Pastor, United Church of God
NYC, NJ, CT, Malawi, Zimbabwe