Last words. We turn them over and over in our hand like a last gift, a necklace, a jewel, discovering every angle, looking at the way the light shines through it. We hold onto the tone, the timbre of their voice. Last words get embossed in the mind.
That last visit sitting in the white nursing home room, under the window, my Nona was barely able to talk. Alzheimer had claimed all her words. She who once wore a mass of red curls like a crown, whispered like a child, nodding her head as if it was heavy. After hours sitting next to her, holding her hand and holding a monologue about the children and the happenings in our Mitford-like town in Pittsburgh, I thought all memory of me had slipped into the dark of her mind. But, as I got up to leave, I leaned forward to kiss her peach-fuzz covered cheek and heard her whisper, “I love you Sweetie” just like always. Just like she had whispered for the last thirty-eight years as I hugged her good-bye by the car. I glanced into her eyes surprised but she had already closed her eyes. She was already gone. I held her words like blue-green seaglass I search for on the shore, familiar and precious.
And Jesus’ last words? In Matthew Jesus leaves his disciples with the words every newly-adopted child needs to hear: “I will be with you always to the end of the age.” But, in Luke 24, Jesus gives last directions before he ascends: “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
The Spirit is the Father’s promise. Let’s just park here for a minute. The Father promises the Spirit, a magnanimous promise from of a perfect, loving, all-powerful Being. It’s a promise we can trust, a promise we can build a house on, build a life on. Can you hear echoes of Luke 11? “If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Holy Spirit give good gifts to them that ask Him.”
Ask. Stay. Wait.
It’s a daily thing, a lifetime learning. We’re invited to lean into the promise, to not rush ahead, but to hold out our empty hands for our Abba to fill. Frances MacNutt says that prayer is just our sitting at the table with the Father and asking Abba to pass the mashed potatoes. I can still hear the laughter in his voice from the tape I listened to early in my ministry, “And He LOVES to feed his children.” It’s the same big-hearted Daddy tone of Luke 12:32, “Don’t be afraid little flock, for the Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.”
Luke all this time has been setting us up for his sequel, the book of Acts and the opening chapters punctuated with the fireworks of Pentecost. He’s setting us up for power, not for emptiness. He’s pointing to a new life fired by hope and the ability to bring the Kingdom wherever we put down our feet one step at a time. Your Kingdom come Here on earth as it is in heaven. Your Kingdom come here.
He is setting us up for gain, not for loss.
What are you hearing in these last words, my friend?