The Restoration Question
In the Gospel of Acts, the disciples ask the restoration question:
So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ – Acts of the Apostles 1:6
Jesus teaching to the disciples was heavily focused on the kingdom of God. While the teachings of Jesus make it clear that building the kingdom is about the hear and now there is also a mystery in his teachings because the restoration of the kingdom also had an eschatological or future dimension.
Jesus replied to the question by confirming the mystery oft-repeated in the gospels:
He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. – Acts of the Apostles 1:7
Rather than providing a timetable or even an assurance of a rapid return, the account by the author of Luke-Acts simply sidesteps the question and leaves us to wonder about the coming of the restored kingdom.
But the account in Acts leaves no doubt about the continuation of the mission after Jesus is gone. In fact, one can say that’s what this second part of the writing of the book of Luke-Acts is about: the continuation of the mission of Jesus Christ. Jesus said:
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.’ – Acts of the Apostles 1:8
While the timing of the restoration of the kingdom of Israel remains a mystery, the mission of Jesus Christ is made clear and is empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Israel A. Smith, who served as President of Community of Christ in the immediate post-World War II period for 12 years from 1946 to 1958, wrote about the restored kingdom, which Community of Christ calls Zion, from a restoration perspective:
The work of preparation and the perfection of my Saints go forward slowly, and Zionic conditions are no further away nor any closer than the spiritual condition of my people justifies. – Doctrine and Covenants 140:5c
The church was very much concerned with the orderly establishment of Zion in the war years and post-war years when a rush of immigrants to Zion came to settle. My grandparents Charles and Edla Cotton were among them, arriving with my mother in Independence in 1943 from California. My Mom was forced to start her senior year of high school in a new state. My grandfather approached the Bishop, in obedience to the call to be a part of the orderly transition called for in Section 140 (although it had not been written yet), and asked for permission to open a bakery. He was told they already had a bakery in Independence and advised not to try. Disappointed with this direction and once the war ended and no cataclysmic events having occurred, my grandparents returned to California not long after my Mother began her freshman year at Graceland.
“…and you will be my witnesses…”
Pursuing a dream of Zion involves living lives formed by the Holy Spirit in which we freely share the testimony of what Jesus Christ has done in our lives. Living into that mission and learning to act on all the dimensions of the gospel to the poor which the author of Luke-Acts describes is what matters most.
Spiritual Practices for Today
Consider someone who needs to hear your story. Imagine what it might be like to bear witness to them. Where would this take place? How will the subject of conversation comfortable lead to a discussion of things that matter? How might your friend react? What pathways could this conversation lead to? Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you and direct you in your conversation and in the sharing of your story as a witness of Jesus Christ.
Consider this prayer:
Pray: God of Migration and Return, bless those who seek your Spirit and bear your witness. May your blessings on their life journey offer hope and solace to all. Forgive those who become lost along the way and give us light for the path. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
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.’
What word or phrase do you find yourself wanting to contemplate and explore in this passage?
How is this passage speaking to you today?
Download or open the Community of Christ app on your smartphone or visit www.cofchrist.org to read today’s Daily Bread and Prayer for Peace. After reading the Daily Bread, consider these questions:
What resentment do you need to let go of?
What does it mean to truly forgive someone?
Pray the Mission Prayer: God, where will your Spirit lead today? Help me be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me the courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen.
2021 Guiding Question: Are we moving towards Jesus, the peaceful One?