Readings: Acts 1:1-11
Welcome to Ascension Sunday! Probably you have got it all marked on your calendars as many clergy do, “We all can't wait for Ascension Sunday!” Right, you knew it was going to be today! Did you know today was Ascension Sunday when you were getting ready for church: “Yes going for the Ascension Sunday worship!” This is his day before Pentecost when we celebrate and we remember with all of the church the day when Jesus was taken up into heaven as the disciples stood by and watched.
What in the world! These poor disciples, they had learned from Jesus: they fed the 5000, they were there every step of the way. When Jesus was crucified and they thought it was over. But don't worry, three days later he was resurrected and they were really excited because now their leader is back! For 40 days, Jesus taught and explained; opening their minds to the scriptures. All of a sudden it was making sense, once again. They were comfortable because Jesus was with them.
It kind of reminds me of my dad as a coach and so he would talk about training his basketball team or his tennis team; particularly with basketball he would enjoy the practice. In basketball practice he would go through all of the plays: they would work on fundamentals like dribbling and passing and dribbling and passing and shooting and passing and dribbling and passing. You had to learn which way to go! If they do this then you go there! Here you’ve got to know which way you're going to go. Nothing like practice. When they got to the game my dad could watch them do all of the things that he’d taught them. Because he prepared them for just this time.
I'm also reminded of a few weeks ago I had the privilege of going and watching an opera that Sasha Garrison, our very own, directed. On the night of the Opera we are talking with Sasha and what the people are saying are you nervous or how are you doing. She said, “Well you know now I just sit back and watch.”
It's true, all of these young people that she had trained, all of the voices that have been working together, all of the actresses and actors that knew where they were supposed to go on the stage and then it was showtime. It was a joy to watch the production because it was excellent.The confidence of these young people as they performed extraordinary things. But it was also something to behold Sasha's face as it all came to life. Everything that she had done to infuse her own lessons and wisdom into these young people came into being right in front of everyone’s eyes
Kind of like teachers! The work: day after day to teach the fundamentals of math and science and social studies and reading. God bless elementary teachers! Day after day they try and teach not only the rudiments of what it is to learn but what it is to be a person who cares about others. They work with students and then they graduate at the end of the year and sometimes they see their students again the next year. But then one day you graduate from high school and now you're off! And the game is up to you. They hope and pray; but they know that you're ready because you got this!
These are excellent illustration of Jesus with his disciples! He had taught them, he had shown them, he had worked with them until they knew exactly what it was to be a follower of Jesus. Exactly what it was to break the boundaries to go into all the world and share love and peace and Hope. And they were ready! So I imagine that as Jesus was telling them one last time.
“Don't forget you have been Witnesses of all of these things, Go and share your testimony! Don't just stop in Jerusalem! Extend to all of Judea and Samaria, include those Samaritan but don't stop there! You are called to be witnesses to the entire world and you've got this! So just don't just stand there get to work!”
Then he ascended on a cloud. The cloud is important and I don't want you to miss this. The people of God understood when they saw clouds that that was God's action. The Israelites followed the pillar of cloud across the Wilderness leading them into the promised land. They knew that when there was a cloud there was God. It is fun to go worship outside because and I hope it's we look at the clouds are reminded of God With Us. Those disciples would have seen Jesus being a send it on a cloud and would have known that Jesus was not just leaving them but being with God!
And Jesus promise that no matter what he would still be with them. When they break bread and when they feed the hungry and when they clothe the naked, when they visit the prison, when they do the ministry of being the people of God. When we are the church, that God is here too!
My favorite part of this passage is after Jesus has ascended and the disciples are all standing around going “ Oh, NO! Is he going to come back? Doe he really mean it is our turn? are we really ready to take this next up and go out in faith?”
There's a couple of angels there saying: “Why are you still looking up in heaven? He's already taught you. You know what you're supposed to do. You know what you're called to do. You know who you are! Don't just stand there! Get to work!”
Church, we have been called! We have been taught and we have been prepared. Now it is our turn to get to work. In the name of the father who goes with us, who goes along side of us, and who empowers us every step of the way. Amen