What Are You Looking At?
Text: Acts 1:1-11
Rev. Garry E. McCaffery
There once was a woman named Tabitha. She was a happy-go-lucky kind of lady. She was very friendly to everyone, always making sure to give a kind “hello” to those she passed by.
Tabitha was also very aware of her surroundings. She always took time to notice the beautiful flowers and trees that were all around her. She would take time to sit and listen to the birds singing in the trees and to watch them glide through the air. She would take time to sit on a park bench with strangers and just converse with them. Tabitha, in her joy for life, was happy to bring a smile to the face of someone who was sad; or to bring laughter to a little child who was made fun of by others. She just took the time to notice everything.
One day however, all of that changed. As Tabitha was walking down the street she noticed a piece of paper being pushed along the ground by a gentle breeze that was blowing. Upon closer examination she discovered that the wadded up piece of paper was money. She picked It up and unfolded it…it was a $100 dollar bill. Upon even closer examination she discovered that it was 2 $100 dollar bills stuck together. She couldn’t believe it! In all her life she never imagined she would find such a thing as a hundred dollars just blowing around in the breeze, let alone 200. She would have thought someone would have missed that much money but, there was no one around to ask if they had lost any. So, she put it in her pocket.
After placing the money in her pocket she continued walking, but she wasn’t looking around anymore. She kept looking at the ground hoping to find more money just being carried along by the breeze because, “hey, you never know.”
Tabitha became so absorbed in looking for more money that she no longer said “hello” to people she passed by. She no longer noticed the beautiful flowers and trees. She no longer noticed the birds singing or flying through the air. She no longer took time to sit and visit with strangers. She just kept staring at the ground as she walked along hoping to find more money.
Her focus and desire to find more money continued to change her attitude. She was so focused on the ground that she wasn’t aware that other people were around her until she bumped into them. And instead of saying, “excuse me,” or “pardon me,” she just shoved them and said, “Get out of my way!” Tabitha no longer wanted to be bothered with other people and their needs. She was only interested in what she might find for herself.
This same kind of thing could have happened to the disciples from our scripture lesson had two angels not come along and asked them, “What are you looking at?”
Well, we know that’s not what the angels really said, however, we do know that the angels had to call the disciples back to the task that was before them.
The disciples had just spent forty days with Jesus since His resurrection. And he had now just finished reaffirming that, although John baptized with water, He, Jesus, would be baptizing them with the Holy Spirit not many days from then.
At that point, as we are told, the disciples wondered if Jesus would be restoring the kingdom of Israel at that time. Jesus, of course, responded, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
After Jesus had said this the disciples watched as He ascended into the sky and disappeared from their sight. Even after he had disappeared, the disciples continued looking upward. Squinting and staring to see if they could see him anymore. They kept looking and looking, perhaps to gain one more glimpse of Jesus. It was at this point we are told, “two men stood by them in white apparel,” and asked them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11). At this point the disciples stopped looking up and we are told they headed back to Jerusalem to wait for the Holy Spirit.
Notice, they were not told to keep looking up while they went back to Jerusalem. First, it would have looked kind of silly to see people walking around that way. Second, it would be dangerous because they could trip and hurt themselves since they would not be watching where they were going. And third, they would not be able to see all the people around them whom they were to minister to once they had been given the Holy Spirit. In order to witness to others about Christ one must be able to see the people they are witnessing too.
Even today we need to get called back on track with what we are supposed to be doing. Let’s face it, we can be easily and quickly distracted by a myriad of things. We have much shorter attention spans than we once did. We can quickly be side tracked with “squirrel” moments.
One of the many things that can pre-occupy our thoughts is the question of when Jesus will return. There are books upon books upon books and movies upon movies about the return of Christ. This is not too terribly surprising especially given current events. But, we have to be careful that we are not so caught up in trying to figure out the precise moment of His return, that we lose sight our mission.
Not only that, we can run the risk of getting caught up in trying to figure out who will be going to heaven and who won’t be upon Christ’s return. Who is a Christian and who isn’t a Christian? We get involved with great debates, arguing over small texts of scripture and how it is to be interpreted. This, too, causes us to lose sight of our mission.
We can also lose sight of our mission by getting wrapped up in all the things going on in the world, all the things that separate us from each other. You know what I’m talking about…the great divides of Liberalism, Conservatism, Feminism, Sexism, Progressivism, and Racism. We get so wrapped up in all of that that we forget about Evangelism: sharing the good news that Jesus Christ died and rose again out of love for you and me, and all the lost souls that inhabit our world. We get involved with so many things, with all of the varying aspects of our lives, that we overlook that which is really important.
As Christians we have been called to a task, a great task, and we need to be reminded, as the disciples were, what that task is. First and foremost, we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind. And the second part is that we are to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. If we are doing these things, then we can fulfill that which Christ has commanded us to do and to be. We are to be filled with the Holy Spirt and be His witnesses to all the peoples of the earth.
Specifically, the people that you and I are responsible to be witnesses of Christ to, are those that live in our community. Yes, the world is important, but our world starts right here in Millville and Knowlesville and the greater Medina and Albion area. We are called to be witnesses, and not just to those of us who show up her for worship on Sunday morning or for those of you who are watching on-line. We are to be witnesses to all of those who live around us, including those we may not normally interact with.
They are watching us closely. Those to whom we are to witness the love of Christ are watching us closely. What does the community see when they look at and think of those of us who come here to worship? Do they see a people that really care for God, them, and each other? Or, do they see people interested only in themselves and their own personal comfort level?
As the angels approached the disciples they also approach us with the question, “what are you looking at?” Are we, like Tabitha, looking at the ground, focused on what we might be able to gain for ourselves, looking for our own benefit without thought of others? Are we like the disciples when Jesus first ascended? Looking up and preoccupied with when He will return, who will be going, and who’s really a Christian? Or, are we as the disciples once they had been called back to their task? Looking straight ahead. Looking at the people whom they were called to minister to.
Taking care of ourselves is okay. Desiring to see Jesus return to take us home with Him is okay and it is our hope. However, our attention must be focused on witnessing to the people around us and telling them the good news of Jesus Christ.
This is our task: Making disciples of Jesus Christ and ushering people into the kingdom, ushering in the kingdom, and honoring Christ through faith-filled service.
How will you be a witness for Jesus this week? Whose life will you touch? What will you be looking at? Amen.