Do Not Depart but Wait Together
Departing is so easy...and so attractive. After a stressful time or particularly draining period of life, my impulse is to pull away, step back, get distance and re-group. While some of this is clearly healthy and wise (sabbath rest-keeping) another part is not so healthy. It cuts people off and breaks relationships. It builds walls and closes communication. We call that the "back door" of the church.
Over years of ministry in four congregations I have observed this centripetal and centrifugal force, one force that pulls us together inward and an opposing forces that spins us outward and alone. Nothing fuels that more than stress, conflict, loss and pain. And there is no place where that is more evident in scripture than Acts 1, when Jesus announced that he was leaving and a new chapter of their life as disciples was beginning without his physical presence.
I'm guessing that a number of his followers were saying in their heads "OK, that's it...I'm out of here!" And that's why Jesus commanded them to not leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father.
The altar-piece shows the eleven plus another (Matthias) gathered, waiting, together, intertwined. Where are you waiting together?