Jesus did not call his followers into the comfort of cathedrals and ornate church buildings. Actually he did not call us to congregate every so often – Sundays, for example – feel good about ourselves, disperse then come back the following Sunday.
In his prayer for his disciples in the Gospel Reading for the Seventh Sunday of Easter (John 17: 6-19) Jesus prayed, “I am not asking you to take them out of the world”. It is tempting, on Sundays, to savor an “out of this world” experience, to be in heaven. But that is not it.
In the Epistle Reading for this Sunday from Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26, the disciples chose Matthias as Judas Iscariot’s replacement to “become a witness with us to his (Jesus’) resurrection”. It is a lot easier and comforting to witness to our own within the walls of a church. Yet Jesus prayed, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17: 18). Jesus sends us out into the world to witness to his resurrection.
But of course we come into fellowship with one another, to worship, and – yes – to be encouraged and affirmed. We need that; whether it is bible study, Sunday school or Eucharist, we receive nourishment and we need it. But that is not the end of it. The real purpose of the nourishment and affirmation is to go out into the world to witness to Jesus’ resurrection.
Now, that can be very discomforting outside the church walls. Going out into the streets and alleys, being a witness in both word and deed, to the rich and the poor equally, advocating for justice and peace and being a voice for the voiceless – these are not tasks that would make us at ease.
Our comfort comes from knowing that Jesus prays for us: “Holy Father, protect them …” (John 17: 11). Whatever obstacles and hardships we encounter in our witness, he is there by our side and he is interceding on our behalf.
So, let us, with comfort and reassurance, step out of the church walls into the streets and alleys, into towns and villages, being witnesses of the Risen Christ.