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A PLACE OF PREPARATION (Life in a Time of Lockdown 6)

Upper Room

There are 10 days between Ascension Day and the Day of Pentecost. Luke tells us that after Jesus was ‘taken up into heaven’ the apostles left the Mount of Olives and went back to Jerusalem and ‘devoted themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1:11,14).

I have often wondered how those first followers of Jesus must have felt in the midst of this emotional roller coaster ride of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus right before their eyes. Amazed, confused, full of faith and anticipation? Most probably a mixture of them all! Luke tells us that they returned to Jerusalem ‘overwhelmed and ecstatic with joy… praising and worshipping God’ (Luke 24:52,53 The Passion). Their return to the city was in obedience to the command of Jesus to ‘wait in the city until they had been clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49). They had been instructed to wait, to pray and to seek God until they had received what Jesus had promised (Acts 1:4,5) and this is what they did … well for the most part, apart from the unnecessary church meeting that Peter instigated (Acts 1:15-26) … all 120 of them!

They purposefully gathered in the Upper Room which was their regular meeting place. This large second floor room has been described as ‘the place where the greatest drama in human history was played out.’ It was the place of the Last Supper. The place where the disciples hid in fear after the death of Jesus. It was also the place where they encountered the Risen Christ. This was a place of sharing, friendship, and fellowship. It was also a place of jealousy, betrayal, and fear. Then, when Jesus appeared after the resurrection and showed them his hands and side, the disciples’ sense of failure and fear was transformed into courage and hope, healing and mission. When Thomas saw the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and the wound in Jesus’ side, the one who had doubted declared the great words of faith and worship, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28). The Upper Room was the place of revelation and encounter. And it was about to become a place of transformation and empowerment. All they had to do was to wait together, watch and pray together for just ten days. The Upper Room was also a place of preparation. This time was absolutely vital to prepare the disciples to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).

We too are in such a vital time of preparation and formation between what was before CV-19 and what will come afterwards. The disciples didn’t know what to expect. They were just following Jesus’ instructions. And we do not know what to expect of life after the virus … whenever that will be. All we can do is wait, watch and pray, and listen for Jesus’ instructions to us. We cannot literally pray in the Upper Room at Abbey (a specific prayer room on the top floor of our building set aside exclusively for prayer and used not only by Abbey folk but open for all) but we can pray in our homes for revelation and encounter and purposefully seek God for the absolutely vital transformation, empowerment and renewal of the Holy Spirit to come upon us at Pentecost so we can be prepared, equipped and spiritually energized for what is to come.

Jonathan Friz of the 10 Days of Prayer Virtual Global Upper Room wrote recently that ‘We are living in strange times. While history records many plagues, we have never seen a plague shut down cities and economies all over the globe at the same time. Uncertainty and fear seem to rule the day, and yet, in the midst of this crisis, many are anticipating times of unprecedented harvest, unity, and the outpouring of the Spirit. As we approach Pentecost, God is calling His church back to the Upper Room, to seek the Lord, to rediscover our love and need for one another, to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches, and to seek to solidify our own hearts in God’s word while also crying out in prayer for God’s purposes to be done on earth as it is in heaven.’

Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.

~ Daniel Iverson (1890-1977)

Julia Binney

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