When I was student at Virginia Theological Semianry, I was required to attend Morning Prayer every day in the seminary chapel. Behind the main altar there was a large stained glass window that depicted the ascending Jesus surrounded by his disciples. Above this beautiful stained glass window were the words of Jesus found at the conclusion of Mark's gospel, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel." (I have included a picture of the window in the post below this one, if you want to take a look!) As a student I remember gazing at this window day after day and reflecting on my call to "go forth into the world."
What challenges will I face when I "go forth?"
What if I am not "successful" in ministry?
What if I make mistakes?
How will my vocation affect my family?
These are the questions that all of face as we contemplate the call of God on our lives, In today's reading from the beginning of Acts, we shift our focus from the minstry of Jesus to the ministry of the early church. The earliest followers of Jesus were still confused and uncertain about what the future would hold for them. The disciples of Jesus were called to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth - but what did that mean? Let's take a moment to reflect on these words of commissioning from the book of Acts:
Jerusalem - Your Family/Neighborhood
The city of Jerusalem represented the center of Jewish life and practice. The history of the city of Jerusalem was the prism through which the early disciples understood their faith. So, naturally their vocation as witnesses of Jesus would begin at "home" - in their own context. How is God calling you to be a witness in your own context (your family, neighborhood, or community)? What challenges do you face?
Judea - Your People
The region of Judea was the area surrounding the city of Jerusalem.This was the region in which a majority of the Jewish people resided - this was the larger Jewish community. Today, our "Judea" might be the Church. We are sent to be witnesses to our brothers and sisters in Christ, living testimonies of the transforming and healing love of God. How is God encouraging you to be stronger in your corporate life as a witness to Jesus?
Samaria - The Other
Now things get a bit more interesting! As we know from the parable of the "Good Samaritan," the Samaritans were despised by the Jewish people. And yet, the gospel is to be proclaimed even among the Samaritans. In what ways are you being stretched to reach out to "the other," those whom the world might consider to be "unclean" or "unwanted?"
The Ends of the Earth - God's Vision
Finally, the commission of Jesus extends the scope of God's mission "to the ends of the earth." Now most of us will never make it to the "ends of the earth," but God is continually calling us to "lift our vision higher." God is continually calling us to understand our personal vocation within the awesome, eternal mission of God. In what ways are you being called "to lift your vision higher?"