Monday, May 05, 2008

Ascension Sunday Sermon

You’ve all probably said and heard the cliché question from the back seat on vacation: Are we there yet?

Eager anticipation. Waiting for news, waiting to hear about a mortgage loan, or waiting at the airport for a long departed loved one.

On the other hand, waiting to hear about treatment options or the results of a medical test. Waiting for a family to repair itself after a fracture like a divorce or a betrayal of trust or a death.

We can understand the disciples question, “is this the time when…”

But how does Jesus answer them? “It’s not for you to know.”

“It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.”

Oftentimes, the church it seems forgets this passage and busies itself searching out the hidden meanings of scriptures and speculating endlessly on the end of time. Reading the “Left Behind Series,” when we could be reading “The Imitation of Christ.”

Don’t think I’m being too critical, there are no doubt some social communities who take great solace in the hope and eager anticipation of the apocalypse. The slaves of 19th century America come to mind. Or churches under persecution, like the 7 churches to which John wrote the apocalypse.

I just haven’t had the experience of being brutally oppressed or enslaved. Furthermore, why should my soul sour to the heights of heaven when I haven’t yet figured out how to love my neighbor? Maybe it’s a distraction for me. And that’s why I tend to avoid speculating about it.

Instead, I’m more interested in this “being filled with the power of the Spirit” bit.

Keeping our eyes on the ascension rather than wondering about how he’ll descend. Keeping our vision focused on how Jesus walked and talked while on earth and watching where he’s going, in the scriptures and in our lives. This should be our focus rather than what Jesus will say and do when he returns. Because if we really care to hear what he says he’ll say when he returns, if fail to live with his love in our heart, then it will be, depart from me, goats. You failed to live with me and love me when I was the prisoner and the widow and the oppressed.

Do you see how this shakes out? There is God's business and the disciples' business. God alone is in charge of the timing and the disciples are in charge of the mission!

As he went into heaven, Jesus prayed the blessing of the spirit on his followers. His spirit compels us to pattern our lives after Jesus’ actions and words. In the actions of this church, such as those pointed out to us in the letter from Eva’s parents, and such as the dedication I witnessed in those who helped with the church workday, we set our tracks in the footsteps of Christ. Jesus walks with us in every moment. If we’re endlessly consumed with the coming of Christ in a future tense, we’ll lose sight of the fact that Jesus walks.

He walks and Luke shows how the disciples are given three things to make them “apostles” The power, the promise and the prayer. ………….

When is the peace and joy of God's kingdom going to come to this mixed up and violent world? It's not for us to know.

What is for us to know, however, is the foundation for our life of faith until the kingdom comes. Our family of faith is built on these three foundation blocks. The power of God to accomplish our Christian work, the promise of God that all things will be brought under the reign of Christ and the prayer of the community of Jesus' followers that gives access to the presence and power of God!

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