May 29, 2019
Scripture Acts 1:1-11
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
Acts 1:8-9 NRSV
The adverb “up” gets a lot of use from us. We look up. We stand up. We “take up” for one another when there is a bit of trouble. On the other hand, in worship we often look down in thought and prayer in a position of humility and heartfelt emotion. But, at other times in worship or prayer we are looking up in hope and in wonder. Well, we could exhaust our time together in continuing this, but these images and thoughts are useful as we go deeper into our scripture lesson today.
In these verses, the Risen Christ advises and instructs the disciples in Jerusalem in the forty days following his resurrection. They are asking him a question, when Jesus rises before them and ascends into a cloud until they can no longer see him. Now, that would be pretty startling to witness something like that! The ancient people of Palestine would have felt the same way. However, there are other stories with a similarly dramatic setting: The prophet Elijah was taken up to heaven before his apprentice and replacement, Elisha (2 Kings 2:5-13). So, this idea of rising above earth as a dramatic exit from the world was not a new concept for the people of Palestine.
The Ascension of the Lord, while a bit fantastic for our rational and scientific minds, conveys an enormous amount of information about the nature of the Risen Christ and the full story of the Gospel. Christ departed from the earthly realm altogether. As a result, Christ truly is reigning above with God our Creator. And, prior to departing them, Christ informs the disciples that they will receive new power from the Holy Spirit which comes on the day we celebrate as Pentecost. Without the Risen Christ and the transfer of the mission and ministry to the disciples, the Gospel story would never have proceeded as it did: a powerful message that conveyed the power of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God for this Good Gift to us all!