Friday 1st October 2021 Witnesses to the ends of the Earth
After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
The list of places that the followers of Jesus are instructed to be witnesses in, in the power of the Holy Spirit, is comprehensive. It’s probably not surprising by now to the disciples that Jesus mentions Samaria, having demonstrated his witness to the often-reviled Samaritans already (we mentioned this in Wednesday’s Daily Devotion).
The ‘ends of the earth’ (or ‘furthest parts’) was an emphatic term, but even if taken literally might have seemed fairly doable, since much of the Earth as we know it today was still unknown to them. Many of the apostles mentioned in the New Testament and in church history ended up travelling huge distances over land and sea as they bore witness to Jesus’ love.
Nowadays, even with our more complete knowledge of the world and the impact our lifestyles and practices can have upon it, it is deeply distressing that our witness to ‘the ends of the Earth’ has been marred by the devastation we and others have caused to our ecosystems. We don’t even need to leave our homes these days to have an impact on the further parts of the world. Our continued and unbalanced misuse of the world’s resources, and the wars waged to secure them, all at a deadly cost to those who are most vulnerable, is an undeniable stain in humanity’s story.
The Joint Public Issues Team partners with churches and other organisations to encourage a world that actively works for peace, and where our environment is renewed. We are witnesses to the hope that the abundant life promised by Jesus can be experienced by all humanity and all creation. Words must be accompanied by positive actions if we are ever to be faithful witnesses to the ends of the Earth.
What is your witness to the ends of the Earth today?
Loving God, We have sung songs of worship, and filled the sea with our waste. We have prayed long and hard, and watched the forest burn. We have presented our offerings with joy, and closed our ears to a weeping Earth. Forgive us. Heal us. Help us change. Protect the vulnerable. Renew the Earth. Amen
Roo Stewart is Programme Support Officer for Church and Society within the URC’s Mission Team and a member of the Joint Public Issues Team.