November 22, 2020
Jesus tells his rattled group of followers to return to the city and do not leave until you feel yourself clothed with power from on high. ~ Luke 24:49
When they entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying. ~ Acts 1:13
Two days ago, while in my church office, I received a phone call from Jennifer. She said, “I’m positive.” “What?” “My COVID-19 test came back positive.” “You’re kidding me.” “No.” “OK. I’ll be right there.”
I grabbed a bunch of books, my laptop, some paper, and a few pens, and went home. Jennifer and I, and my mom split the house up in separate quarters as much as possible. Then, Mom and I went to Cortez to get tests done; and, when I got back, and after I checked on Jennifer, I went to my “upper room” which is our son’s room upstairs to wait.
Where do we go when our world gets turned upside down? Where do we go when we are confused and uncertain about what lies ahead? Where do we find refuge from the storms? Do we metaphorically have an upper room?
At the end of Luke’s Gospel, men and women followers of Jesus are unsure and fearful for their future. Jesus tells his unnerved group of followers to return to the city and do not leave until they feel “clothed with power from on high” (see Luke 24:49). Father Ron Rolheiser points out that in the book of Acts we find out that his followers go to Jerusalem and “frightened and uncertain of their future, they wait in an upper room until they experience” the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:12-14).
News of Jennifer’s positive test unearthed our world. We think things will be alright, but we cannot be certain. For many of us, this past year has been one tremor of an earthquake after another. The pandemic, racial unrest, political chaos, and the uncertainty surrounding our personal lives has left us shaken. “We struggle to maintain our commitments and move to a deeper maturity,” writes Rolheiser. What’s next?
We can find insight, comfort, and direction in the image of the fearful disciples waiting in the Upper Room. Rolheiser says, “This picture: a formerly confident but now somewhat deflated group of disciples are huddled together, confused and out of energy, needing to be recharged anew, unsure of what they are waiting for, but waiting nonetheless for something new to happen to them, for new fire, for a new vision and a new energy from beyond.”
I am excited and very hopeful about our future, but I have no idea what it will look like after the pandemic. What will our church look like? Will people come back? What will change? “Like the first followers of Jesus, immediately after his departure, they also no longer knew what they were doing. So much of what used to work no longer did,” says Rolheiser.
After 9-11 many people in our former community struggled like the first disciples. I always remember what our pastor said at the time. “We are not losing control because we never had it, but we are losing the illusion of control.” The pandemic reminds us that we can be safe and take precautions, but we are not in control. That is a tough pill to swallow.
Jesus encourages his shaken but faithful followers to go to Jerusalem and to wait there until they have been “clothed with power from on high.” The followers (men and women) go to an upper room where they are staying (Acts 2:13); they pray and more than likely sing, worship, and remind each other of God’s presence with them. The upper room is a holy space, a place of restoration and affirmation.
Like the original Upper Room in Jerusalem, do we have sacred rooms and places? Our spots are generally humble—a spare bedroom, a shed, a corner in the garage, the church basement, a bench in the park, or a bend in the creek. The Upper Room is a place to rest and receive God’s grace.
At the parsonage, we are fortunate that each of us can have a room. I am converting Ro’s room into a monastic cell. (Don’t tell him.) I took down his poster of the Beatles and replaced it with a colorful cross from Guatemala. Votive candles that I light for morning prayer line the top of his dresser. The Spirit of God is everywhere but I want to make the room as peaceful as possible as we wait. “Go into your room and shut the door and pray to your God who is in secret; and your God who sees in secret will reward you,” (Matthew 6:6).
So much like the first disciples, we wait in the cloud of unknowing in our “upper rooms” wherever they may be. May we find comfort and peace knowing that even though this pandemic separates us physically, we truly wait together in spirit. “May we return to our faith dreams and our hopes! May we go and wait with one another in spirit in our Upper Rooms.”
Blessings and peace my friends,
If possible, consider creating a sacred space (an upper room) where you live.