After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
“If God got us, then we gon be alright”
“Alright” by Kendrick Lamar.
* * *
So here we are in the fall of 2020. Your children are e-learning once again. You have your reservations about how it went in the spring. You just started letting them play safely with the neighbor children. They all wear multi-colored masks, and you try to remind them to keep distance from each other as they play tag and climb trees and sing karaoke. You’re waiting to hear about justice for those who lost their lives to police brutality, along with other Black families and those who are concerned over the other pandemic that has been raging against Black, Indigenous, and people of color since before 1619: institutionalized racism and state-sanctioned injustice. You haven’t seen family in months (and you don’t know when you will), so your circles of support have gotten smaller. On top of all of this, maybe your job has been talking about cuts, leaving you to wonder how you will provide for yourself and for those you love.
Then, a few days ago, Jesus – your Teacher, your Friend, and your spiritual leader who you walked closely with, who taught you how to Love and Heal and Be together in community – was murdered. You watched Him get taken away in handcuffs; you tried to help, but to no avail. You were scared, separated from your friends and thinking that maybe the government would come after you next. And you thought that all of this would break you.
You weren’t sure how you would get through these times. But you reach out and allow yourself to connect with those you love, who you’ve established a community with. Sometimes you want to be alone or it seems like too much trouble to gather safely, but still you gather; you push yourself and you go meet with others who miss Him and love Him, too. You pursue that Peace and Love that you know is real. You reread His words and talk about His life. And all of a sudden, you experience new closeness with the grief, with those who are struggling, with those who are waiting for that hope, that joy, those miracles and the restoration that you witnessed, and you feel hopeful.
One particular evening, imagine being gathered in your friend’s home, lyrics and beats of The Roots swirl through the air. You’re about to dig into some comfort food that only your friend can throw down, and Jesus comes into your meeting place, unannounced.
You’re shocked; you go through all the stages of disbelief. Is this really him? Didn’t you watch him die? Wasn’t His dead body locked away in a tomb? He sees your doubt and hope, and He answers some of your questions. He lets you touch His healed wounds as He pulls you in for a great big hug. He eats with everyone together that night, and you wake early to go fishing, just like old times.
The ubuntu we created over the years, that we pushed through even when we thought we lost Jesus, seems to strengthen even more with each sway of the boat, with each casting of the line, with each renewed promise. These visits of our resurrected Lord into our community continue from time to time, for over a month. And He continues to teach us about the Kingdom of God, its infinite magnitude, along with its personal intimacy.
One evening, when all of us are gathered, Jesus comes through again. He eats dinner with us, and while we’re talking, one of the homies, a fellow follower asks him, “Lord, at this time are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel? We want to overthrow them! You’re our King! When are WE going to rule our land and impose our will on others if we need to?”
Jesus is quick and responds, “Whoa, whoa, slow down, son! None of your business! Matter of fact, I don’t even know! Only the Father knows the plans, details, dates, and times of what He’s going to do, so don’t you worry about all that.” We look at each other and know that this belief is all we have had. Jesus also tells us to not leave Jerusalem, but wait until we receive the gift that His Father promised to give us. He reminds us, “Don’t worry about what I can’t tell you. Y’all know that John baptized with water, but in a few weeks y’all will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. I can tell you that you are going to receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. When that happens you’re going to be my witnesses, telling people about me all over Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and then world-wide.”
At this time we didn’t know that this would be the power that we would need in order to do His unfinished work, not only in our hometown, but the whole world. So as we wait, as we pray and act in this time of care for our collective community until justice rolls down, let us continue to wait with the power of God.
Terence Z. Gadsden, a.k.a. DJ Rock On, and Angela Sangha-Gadsden have been married for 14 years. Terence serves on the staff of North Park University in Chicago, IL as the Athletic Chaplin & Campus Co-Pastor, and is a native of Tinton Falls, New Jersey. Angela is an educator at Evanston Township H.S. in Evanston, IL, and is a Chicago native. Terence and Anglea both have almost 20 years of experience in working in student development as educators on the westside of Chicago.
In addition to their experience working with students, Angela holds both a B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Terence holds a B.A. in biblical studies from Milligan University in Tennessee and a Masters of Divinity from Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. Terence and Angela have two daughters Zion and Shanthi and currently live in Skokie, IL.