May 13, 2018: The Ascension of the Lord
Reading 1: Acts 1:1-11
In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
In the reading from Acts we hear Jesus telling his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Spirit. The custom of novenas, nine days of prayer for a particular intention, has its root here. Last night a friend and I prayed before eating supper that the United Sates would not bomb Syria. Today I woke up to hear that it happened last night. In the face of my powerlessness and grief, there is no place to turn but to God. I am sure many of you cannot understand my grief. However, you have your own moments of powerlessness and questioning. The powerful signs of God acting with the apostles seem so far away today and so needed. My only response is prayer. Every year on Ascension I want to join Mary and the apostles and the whole church community in prayer. May our prayer in this next week open us to be ready and willing to surrender again to the Spirit on Pentecost.
Whatever is on your heart today bring it to God. In this week before we celebrate Pentecost let us beg God together to send his Spirit of love, peace, and joy to our world. Yes, this involves each of us doing something — loving our enemy, loving the next-door neighbor whose lawn mower woke us up this morning, the person dropping trash out the car window, whatever our particular irritant is. During this week, that person, that habit, even a particularly irritating ad on TV could be a call to prayer. Take a deep breath, think of refugees or a particular person you know is suffering, put the irritation aside and breathe a prayer to the Spirit. Beg God for help, promise your own willing heart, mind, body to follow where you are led.