Monday, June 06, 2011
Ascension Sunday, June 5 Sermon,
I’ve had a lot of fun joking about this scripture passage and it’s happening to occur on the last Sunday I have with you here today, but in many ways it is just the good news we need to hear today.
What occurs in the before and during the ascension is a template for what should occur at those moments of ascension in our own lives.
Just imagine what those disciples must have felt when the resurrected Christ—a man familiar and yet wholly new to them, said that it was time yet again for him to leave them.
When he left them the first time he had been arrested, now he was making an appointment.
When he left them the first time he was lifted up on a cross, now he was being lifted up on a cloud.
When he left them the first time the sheep scattered, they were afraid, despairing, and incredulous. Now they were returning to Jerusalem as he had told them to, with great joy, and marching right to Zion to be in the temple.
There’s a template here in this story of the ascension that I hope has been replicated in our lives. It involves making some comparisons that I have never been quite comfortable with, but some that persist on account of my calling. You see, one of my functions as your pastor has been to show you Christ. To represent Christ. When I have sat with you in hospital rooms or in troubled situations, it has been to remind you that Christ is with you in those moments of pain and desolation. When I have held the hand of the dying, it has been to remind them and their families that Jesus Christ is the one into whose hands we are going. When I have attempted to relate to you what I have learned and how I read and believe the scriptures, it is an attempt to “open your minds to the scriptures” as Jesus does. When I have broken the bread and lifted the cup, it is a reminder that in this meal it is Christ that makes himself available to us.
There is an important difference though, between the one who represents Christ and the Christ himself. I have almost certainly failed you at some point or another. I have probably failed to show up, failed to encourage you or bring a word of hope, failed to adequately portray the one who never fails you. Unfortunately, the only material that God has to work with to represent Christ on earth are sinners in need of that same redeeming that Christ offers.
And so, though Christ leaves his disciples, and though Christ’s representatives, your pastors, may come and go, he and I leave you with a promise that I hope sustains you.
Can you imagine being those original disciples. They get a farewell from the Christ, and a promise that soon in Jerusalem they’ll receive another incarnation of God, only this time it won’t be an “in carne nation” or “in the flesh,” representative, but an “in spir ation” or “in the wind” representative. And what do they do for those 10 days in between the two? Is the life sucked out of them? Do they have a major case of the blahs? NO! They are filled with joy and are continuously in the temple praising God!
They go to Jerusalem where they are told to wait, and they wait on their tip toes. The Bishop spoke about this kind of “tip toed” expectation that he noticed his son exhibited when he used to throw a fishing line into the water.
What a witness! And you know what—the holy Spirit has never left us! I wonder if that faithfulness the disciples showed in the in-between time wasn’t Spirit borne after all. John does relay the information that Jesus came and breathed on his disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit when he visited them on the day of his resurrection. Perhaps they were given a little taste of what was to come on Pentecost.
I pray that this in-between time, the few days this week between pastors who try the best we can to represent Jesus to you, will remind you that it is the Spirit’s presence and power that undergirds all that we do. May we go out in joy and be led forth in peace. The mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! Amen
I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you,
The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
Can you imagine how that Temple must’ve changed for the disciples? When they had last been in it, their Master had been full of wrath at the money changers, Jesus had gone there and had been condemned by the Sanhedrin, the collection of priests. Now they were “continually in the temple blessing God.” Do you know who are the only people who are in the temple continually blessing God? The priests! Christ ordained a new priesthood and sent them to work.