January 11, 2021
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 16-20
Jesus’ ascension marks the beginning of a new era. He leaves his earthly ministry, having been crucified and resurrected. For the disciples, it means accepting the new mantle of teachers and prophets. It is graduation day.
As Elijah passed his mantle to Elisha, and is then taken up to heaven, Jesus spreads his mantle on the disciples. The difference is that as Jesus commands his disciples to go and teach all that he has taught them, he reassures them that they do not go alone. He will be with them forever, no matter where they go or where they find themselves. He will be with them giving them power and encouragement and grace that are more than sufficient for the day.
We have just ended one year and celebrated the beginning of another. We are looking back and looking forward, like the goddess Janus from whom the name of the first month of the year gets its name. Looking forward brings new hopes, new dreams, and a sense of both excitement and angst as we see the tasks before us. Looking back may bring celebration at a significant milestone, grief for what was lost, hope for what was begun, regret for what could have been done or done better, and inspiration for the journey forward. But in it all, the words of Jesus echo, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
2020 brought with it the pandemic, social isolation, loss, physical distance, face masks, lost jobs, and many other trying events. It had a vitriolic campaign and election, social unrest, and Americans pitted against Americans. But, it also had acts of bravery, heroism, creativity, and generosity that often got lost in the noise of the moment. Yet, Jesus was with us.
2021 opens before us with opportunities for feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, clothing the naked, seeing the marginalized, seeking social justice, and bringing grace to all we meet. Our opportunities present themselves every day. All we must do is accept our commission and know that Jesus is with us.
Prayer: God of mercy, love, and justice, open us to Your direction and power. Open our eyes to the needs that each of us can meet. Give us voices and actions to follow Your commission. And remind us constantly that You are with us. Amen.
Submitted by: Rev. Susan Galasso, Chaplain at St. Joseph Hospice North Augusta
January 4, 2021
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12
This is one of the most astonishing promises in the scriptures. Notice the reason Jesus gives for these greater works. It is because He goes to the Father and when He goes to the Father, He will send the Holy Ghost. He says in John 16:1b, “Unless I go away, the counselor will not come to you.” He is referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit. For as the Spirit of God comes into human hearts and dwells in them, these things will happen. The Spirit is releasing to us the life of Jesus, so that it is still Jesus who is doing these things. Some people read this passage and think that we, ordinary humans, are somehow so capable that we can do greater things than the Son of God himself did when he was on earth in the flesh.
Jesus goes on to say: “And greater works than these will you do." What are these greater works? We can't perform greater miracles. Can we do anything greater than opening the eyes of those born blind, or speaking a word and the lame man walks, or raising the dead? The only answer that makes sense is that the works are greater in their significance and importance. They are spiritual accomplishments not physical. Anything done to the spirit of a person is far more significant than something done to the body.
As you read the account of Jesus’s ministry, take note of how crowds followed him when he did the amazing wonders. When Jesus was in a city, they would gather to hear his message. Yet when Jesus is hanging on the cross just before the end of his life surrounded by two others on the cross, the crowds were not there to support him. His miracles did not completely change people. Instead, they merely touched the surface of their lives. Isn't it interesting that the ones whom Jesus healed would not stand with him through the test of the cross, but when these disciples went out and preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, they won converts by the thousands? When presented with the test, these men and women were willing to face lions, to be pulled apart on the rock, and to be burned as living torches rather than deny Jesus.
You may remember that Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I have chosen and appointed you go and bear fruit. Fruit that will last," John 15:16b. That is what they did. They bore fruit. They did greater miracles. Anything done to the spirit of a person is permanent and that which is done to the flesh is temporary. All those whom Jesus healed and raised from the dead died again. Therefore, what is done to the spirit of a person is far greater, and this is what Jesus means by "greater works.”
Prayer: Thank you, God, for the miracles You are doing in and through me. Only You can change my heart, O Lord! Only You can make me more like Jesus.
Submitted by: Rev. Freddie Lawton, Regional Moderator