Our Gospel this week is Luke 24:44-53, taken today from the New International Version (NIV).

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Jesus has been teaching His followers about God’s love for all His children with a dual purpose: first and foremost so we would love God with all our heart, soul and strength, (Matthew 22:37) but also to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:38). The Great Commandment as this is known, tells us what to do and why. Jesus wants them (and us) to continue the mission for which He came.

He gives these final loving instructions to His followers before He ascends to heaven, telling them they are His witnesses, charged with sharing the joy of God’s love with the world. This is what we are called to do, and we do it in response to our love for God. Our task, our motivation and the gifts to accomplish it are all wrapped together in our relationship with our creator.

So where do we start? Usually with ourselves and those closest to us. We know and share God’s love in our own environment before moving out into the world, just as Jesus taught His followers as a small group before sending them. Our groups may be family members, coworkers or longtime friends but they are essential to our work in His name. We must use the gifts we have been given to love everyone, everywhere.

Gracious God, we are often slow to learn and obey. Help us to live in the light of Your love and share the joy of salvation with the world. Amen.

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