“In Between Times”

Acts 1:12-26

{Prayer}

            Back quite a few years ago when my niece was about Faith’s age, Jessica and I asked her what it was that she wanted for her birthday.  She told us … “I don’t know. I’m in this in between age. At times I like dolls, but other times I want something more mature.”  Jessica and I just stared at each other wondering what it was that we just heard.  We had no idea on how to respond to the fact that our niece felt like she was in this “in between age.”

            But that is where we pretty much find ourselves all the time isn’t it?  We live our lives in the midst of the in between times. In between seasons of the year, in between not having an Associate Pastor and having one, in between having a test run and finding out the results, in between jobs, and the list just goes on and on.

            In the midst of the in between times, there are a wide range of feelings.  Feelings of apprehension, fear, doubt, uneasiness.  The unknown of these in between times can be rather unsettling for us.  The unknown can raise our anxiety levels, it can cause us to be fearful as we wait for the inevitable other shoe to drop.  It is in this type of in between time where I don’t operate well and you may not either as we wonder … what is going to happen next and what I am supposed to do?

            This is the place where we find the eleven disciples of Jesus, as well as roughly 120 other followers of Christ in our reading from Acts.  This past Thursday was the Ascension of Jesus.  It was the day when Jesus led the disciples out to Bethany on the Mount of Olives.  Jesus blesses the disciples and tells them how they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8b).  Then after he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight (1:9).  After Jesus is out of sight, the disciples find themselves in this in between time.  They are now in between Jesus ascending into heaven and waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit He promised would come on Pentecost.  The disciple stand there on the Mount of Olives looking up into the sky and wonder, “What do we do now?

             As they aimlessly stare into the sky, hoping that Jesus will come back right away, an angel asks them … “why do you stand here looking into the sky?” (1:11a).  Basically the angel tells them that they need to get ready for the work which lies ahead of them.  Standing around with their hands in their pockets staring up into the sky isn’t going to get them ready for the work ahead.

            But what does that work look like?  Well, the disciples aren’t completely sure.  They know that standing in the field isn’t going to get anything done, so they head back to Jerusalem.  They head back to the upper room where they all joined together constantly in prayer (1:14a). 

             Being in this “in between time,” we can only imagine what is going through their minds.  We can only imagine what they are feeling.  I would imagine that they are praying for things like strength and guidance.  In a sense, the disciples are probably in a state of grief.  Grieving because their friend, their mentor, their teacher, their Savior is truly physically gone … and even though they didn’t quite understand Jesus’ leaving and returning to them with his death and resurrection, they know this time that he will come back … just not sure when.

             We can resonate with this, with the disciples.  In our “in between times,” there is a sense of uncertainty, this sense of not knowing what to do.  There is this sense of needing to look to someone for strength and guidance.  So like the disciples … we turn our hearts and minds to God in prayer.

             Sometimes in the midst of these ten days between the ascension of Jesus and the receiving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Peter stands up and addresses all who have gathered.  Peter, probably with some sadness in his voice, says, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus – he was one of our number and shared in this ministry” (1:16-17).  The sadness comes from the fact that the disciples spent three years with this dead man Judas.  They shared an incredible journey with him and he was like a brother to them.  But Judas’ death also left a hole in their hearts and their Christian family.  But in the midst of this in between time, Peter doesn’t dwell on Judas’ death.  He actually uses the pain of his death to focus the others attention on the resurrection, on to new life.

             In this in between time, the sole reason why Peter can stand up and preach a word at all in the trauma of betrayal and death is because of the other dead man who they had spent three years with.  This other dead man who is raised from the dead.  Peter and his sibling disciples have hope in the face of one man’s death because they are witnesses to the other man’s resurrection.  Because Jesus is physically alive, the disciples are able to move forward through this in between time.

             And they need to be able to move forward.  They need to be able to progress through this time because they have unfinished business to take care of.  The disciples need to replace Judas.  In what sounds like a call meeting, Peter tells everyone the qualifications this man is to have.  Two men are brought forward, Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias.  Prayerfully the eleven disciples cast lots asking God to show them which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry (1:24b-25a).  The lot falls on Matthias.

             Ironically, even though Matthias is chosen to fill Judas’ position, we never hear from him.  There is no acceptance speech or anything.  Actually, even though he fits all the qualifications, we don’t know anything about him.  We don’t know where he goes off to preach or what kind of role he plays in the ever growing church. 

             This may be a bit of a stretch, but in studying this text, I wonder … I wonder about the phonetic similarities of the Greek name Matthias and another common Greek word found through the New Testament of mathetes.   Mathetes is the Greek word for disciple.  Could it be … could it be that Matthias is standing in for all of the mathetes, standing in for all the disciples who will become a witness of his {Christ’s} resurrection” (1:22b)?  Could it be that just like how the book of Acts has an unfinished ending because the church started then continues on today, could it be that Matthias’ story is the story of all the sibling disciples, the story of the disciples who are yet to come in the book titled the Acts of the Apostles?

             Could it be that the reason why we never hear of Matthias again is because his story is actually our story?  Could be that you and I are the Matthias’ of today?  In this in between time of Christ’s ascension and his return in glory on the last day, you and I through the Word of God, though our washing in baptism, through our strengthening of faith from the Lord’s Supper have been called to be Christ’s disciples.  You have been called to be Christ’s witnesses in your Jerusalem, whether that be Salem, Mt. Vernon, Carlyle, Iuka, Kinmundy.  You have been called to be Christ’s witnesses in your Judea and Samaria of Marion, Clinton, Jefferson, and Fayette counties, of the state of Illinois.  You have been called to be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the world.  Like Matthias, you too, through the Word of God, have been with Jesus from his baptism to his resurrection.  You too pray for his indwelling presence in you in this in between time where you and I see persecution.

             As we wait, as we wait in this in between time … it’s easy to be anxious, it’s easy to be confused and fearful … but don’t be.  Don’t be anxious, don’t be confused, don’t be fearful because even though Jesus has physically ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit who descended on the disciples on Pentecost is in you.  Christ has called you to be his own and because of that, Christ is with you.  He is with you wherever you go.  He’s the world’s redeemer and when the appointed time has come … He will come again, riding in on the clouds and He will bring you home.  Amen.

             The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever.  Amen.

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