Eric Barreto: Acts 1:1-11 in Uvalde

I wonder how the disciples felt.

They walked with their friend and heard him bless the poor, saw him heal the sick.

They found themselves confounded by his hard teachings about a kingdom of the weeping and stories about an unjust judge. They were uplifted by the words he spoke.

And so they had hoped. They had hoped he would deliver them from the weight of grief and death and loss and conquest and demonic forces. They had hoped for life in the midst of death. They had hoped for freedom in the shadow of an empire.

And then their hopes were dashed. Their friend was arrested and killed. Empire flexed its muscles and its most terrible weapon. Their hope was no more. Their hope died on a Roman cross, a sacrifice to empire’s arrogant power.

I wonder how they felt.

When he was with them once again. When his scars matched their grief. When they felt their hopes rising again, though perhaps more tentatively than before. Maybe this time things will be different, they might have thought

I wonder how they felt.

When they saw him lifted into the skies. When he promised they would receive a gift from God.

But, most of all, I wonder how they felt when he told them they would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.

I worry that too many of us have made a mistake: a witness is not a spectator. There is a difference between bearing witness and looking on to a scene as an onlooker. There is a difference between the kind of witness that enters the pain of a hurting world and a spectator who gawks from a distance.

Witness is a high calling; often it is a burden. For witnesses to the ends of the earth will see stunning instances of God’s expansive grace but also crushing visions of death’s cruel rule.

I wonder how they felt.

I wonder how they felt when their feet were pointed out to the ends of the earth, about to strive through an unjust world, a world riven by empire and warfare and death. I wonder how they felt when only 120 of them were called to proclaim a kingdom that promises to set right an upside-down world.

I wonder if it felt like a hard-won hope, a hope honed by the realities of death and loss, a hope that had been dashed over and over again, a hope that persists not because we choose to be naive but because God has made a promise. And because God has made a promise then we cannot stay in one place gazing into the heavens waiting for Jesus to return. No, we are called to be witnesses to a kingdom we can barely begin to imagine, one where death and violence and grief are no more. One where the weapons of war give way to the generosity of God’s grace.

I wonder how they felt. I wonder how they felt taking that first step into a world so familiar yet so strange.

Perhaps they wondered if they could really believe that this time would be different. Perhaps they wondered if life would once and for all conquer death. They had seen it happen once before.

Could it really happen again?


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