I was blest on the morning of Ascension Day to attend Morning Prayer and to hear the passage of the ascension read from Acts as a living word from God. It is not always that we hear the scriptures read in such a way but occasionally the words are said with such deliberate love that the simply live for us.
What struck me was the way in which our worship leader, Gerda, named the list of disciples. Each name given the dignity of presence as the reader paused after each one, a moment to savour these people to whom Jesus had appeared and who went away to devote themselves in prayer.
Peter, and John, and James,
and Andrew, Philip and Thomas,
Bartholomew and Matthew,
James son of Alphaeus,
and Simon the Zealot,
and Judas son of James.
It may be that we don’t know these people but the recording of their names and their careful articulation in love continues the witness to Jesus, with which they were entrusted.
As I revelled in their faith the livingness of the scriptures continued in my mind to include the names of those with whom I worshipped and who had inspired me in the faith.
Faithful people like the ones who shared in the Morning Worship: Gerda, Mano, Lynne, Alan & Merle, Jason, Yvonne, Stephen, Harley.
And faithful friends and mentors who have and who continue to witness to Jesus love for me: my Dad, Sandra, Terry, Bob & Grace, David, Gordon & Geoff, Don & Pam, Alan, John, Andrew, Murray & Wendi, Ray, Shirley, Michael.
And people of Faith through the ages whom my contact has been only through texts and stories handed down: Halik, Zizioulas, McGrath, Moltmann, Bonhoeffer & Barth, Calvin & Luther & Zwingli, Gregory of Nazianzus.
Maybe at times we fail to name the influences because we might miss someone out. Maybe we are afraid of the intimacy of declaring our need of others. Maybe we are afraid of pirvacy laws and confidentialites. And maybe at times we simply forget to name those, whose witness shapes and support us, and remind us of the Jesus who ascended in mystery and for whose promised return we wait together in anticipation.
The way Gerda read the names reminded me of how tied our identity is to our own names and how it is important for our names to be said. Yet not only that, but that in hearing each others names in the context of the bigger story of God's love and of Jesus Christ, our faith is affirmed and the witness with which we have been entrusted is shared.