This Sunday we conclude our series based on the world-famous musical Les Misérables! Previous sermons in this series can be found here.
This final sermon in this series parallels endings and transition. The disciples in the Acts text are experiencing an ending as Jesus ascends to heaven. The ending of Les Misérables is marked by the death of Jean Valjean. Even in our own periods of ending, we may have experienced that there is not always the sense of finality we often assume for such times. Certainly this is the case for the disciples, who will soon experience the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:3-11 (CEB)
3After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom. 4While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: 5John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?”
7Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. 8Rather, 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 end of the earth.”
9After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them. 11They said, “Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.”
Consider these questions:
- The idea of an “ending” can be experienced in many ways. The end of life or of a relationship is often and painful and grief-filled experience. But the end of an illness is not usually experienced in the same way. What are some “endings” that stand out to you in your life experience?
- As you think about these “endings,” what emotions do you recall experiencing at the time?
- Sometimes hindsight offers differing perspective. What emotions do you experience as you look back at these “endings?”
Post-Sermon Update on 5/15
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
In concluding our series on Les Misérables, we heard a medley of songs from the musical and also explored the context of the line, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” This takes place as Jean Valjean is at the end of his life, a time when it is natural to think about endings.
Alongside the scripture above, we can see some connection. The disciples were surely experiencing a sense of ending as Jesus ascended into heaven. But two figures appeared and encouraged another perspective: this wasn’t the end!
Consider these questions:
- What signs or reminders do you experience – or could you look for – to help you look at “endings” as “transitions?”
- How do these stories and scriptures help you to see these transitions – and others – in new ways?
- What do you think about the line quoted above about seeing the face of God? How does this fit in with your experience of God?