3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
Romans 12: 3-8
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
These two passages have always been tied together in my mind. In the first, Jesus is speaking to His disciples after the resurrection. In fact, these are the last words He shares with them before ascending. He promises them that, even as He leaves, the Holy Spirit of God will come to abide in them and empower them to serve as His witnesses throughout the earth.
In the second passage, the apostle Paul speaks again of this abiding Spirit, or gift that has been given to each of us through Christ. He goes on to describe the very individualized way that the Spirit expresses the Kingdom of God through these witnesses. Each is of equal value and each is needed to complete the mission.
Through the years that I have served the church in Mission, there is a question I have been asked many times. It goes something like this: “Why are we helping people in Africa or Mexico when we have people in need right here in our country.” I understand where the question comes from. There is a concern that resources are limited and we need to set priorities. But I always reflect back on these words that Jesus left us with, sort of our final assignment. We, as a body of believers, are to be witnesses in Jerusalem (the community we live in), Judea (the larger region), Samaria (the disenfranchised and outcast), AND the ends of the earth. No boundaries. No favorites. No one of more or lesser value. All equally in need of, and deserving of, a glimpse into God’s Kingdom.
And resources? I don’t think Jesus was concerned with the budget. Instead, He promised the power of the Holy Spirit that would provide his people with the gifts that were needed and call them to service according to those gifts. Some will be called and equipped to pray with the family of a dying child. Some will be called and equipped to minister through music that draws people closer to God. Some will be called and equipped to welcome the stranger to the church, and others will be called and equipped to welcome the refugee to our community. Some will be called and equipped to care for the broken in our backyard, and others will be called and equipped to care for the broken on foreign shores.
This is God’s economy. The currency is unending grace and it grows when we spend it.
Loving God, thank you for the gift and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of your church. Help us to trust your calling. Strengthen and encourage us as we seek to live our lives as faithful witnesses. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.