I’ve been rewatching HBO’s The Wire lately. It’s a great show that humanizes the various kinds of systemic injustice we see around us so much that we no longer see it. Almost everyone is trapped in his or her particular role in “the game.” This, and his huge ego, inspires Tommy Carcetti to run for mayor of Baltimore. When he first takes office, he wants to show that his administration is different, that he can change things, get things done where others have failed.
His first day, he begins a barn-storming tour of the city departments. In each stop, he storms in with urgency yelling about some specific problem germane to that department’s business, but without any specific information to act on. He tells Public Works of an abandoned car that needs to be towed; Wastewater Management hears of an open hydrant; and Parks and Recreation learns of a park in disrepair that is unsafe. He does not tell them where any of these things are, just that they better take care of them immediately. To please the new boss, they rush around fixing every problem they can find.
At their meeting later that day, the department heads are proud to report their progress. Public Works has towed 52 abandoned vehicles from the streets of Baltimore, but Carcetti informs him that they missed the one he brought to their attention. Parks and Recreation has installed new equipment at three schools, but Carcetti didn’t get a call about any of those – “Keep at it, though. You’ll get there I’m sure.” Wastewater is a brown-noser, getting all hydrants capped and pulling 32 tons of trash from alleyways, a single-day record. Carcetti is pleased and thanks everyone for their good work.
In our passage from Acts this week (1.6-14), the disciples ask the post-resurrection Jesus if this is the time when he will restore the kingdom of Israel. He tells them that it is not for them to know, but that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and be witnesses to his life and work. Then he flies up into the sky.
The man in whom they had invested the last three years of their lives was killed. Then, improbably, he came back. The resurrection is surely the vindication of their movement over against the powers of the world. Surely, it is the victory for which they had waited. But then he leaves again. It’s a short-lived victory if Jesus is its focal point. Sure, there is the promise that Jesus will return, but we’ve been waiting a while. We’re on our own.
The Good News is that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do great things. Maybe, if we keep doing them, we will find that we have made earth as it is in heaven. Maybe, if we tow the cars and cap the hydrants and make the playgrounds safe, we will find that Jesus has indeed returned in glory. And we will be witnesses! We just have to keep at it.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about living in the time between – between God’s going and coming, between the already and the not-yet, between the beginning and the end of the game.
Grace & Peace,