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Posts tagged ‘Ascension’

“He Ascended into Heaven”

After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.  While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them.  They said, ‘Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven?  This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.’”  (Acts 1:9-11 CEB)

Right.  Jesus floated up into heaven and disappeared into a cloud.  It is a story I have heard since I was a child.  I guess I just accepted it as it was until recently.  Maybe I just didn’t spend a lot of time theologizing about it because the vehicle for Jesus to go to heaven didn’t really matter to me.

Maybe it really is what he told the disciples BEFORE he went into heaven, in Acts 1:8 – “. . . 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 end of the earth.” (CEB)  I wonder if we really read that commission as part of our charge to carry on Jesus’ work in the world, or if we miss it because we are so enamored with the way Jesus left.

I was reading some commentaries this week, and the phrase that came to mind was, “Beam me up, Scotty.”  Do you remember that?  The Star Trek television show was science fiction, but maybe it was inspired by Jesus departure from this earth?  After all, earlier in the story, Jesus had walked through locked doors and yet had a physical body.  The disciples could touch him, and he ate with them.  There was some strange molecular transformation that was apparently going on.

In the Star Trek episodes, Captain Kirk would be on some planet and need to return to the space ship where Scotty was in control of the instrument panel.  All he had to do was move a lever, and the captain would re-molecularize in the “beaming tube.”  Voila!  There he was.

Okay, so that’s a little far fetched!  Ultimately, the point of this story is that the disciples – including us – have been given our mission and ministry – to carry on Jesus’ work in the world.  He had to leave so we could become his church on this earth.  The way he departed isn’t really as important as the instructions he gave us.

At the end of Matthew, he said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a CEB)  The call is to bring the love of God in Christ Jesus to the world.  It is to trust that the Holy Spirit guides and leads us as we remember and live out Jesus’ teachings.

In the midst of nasty remarks, vicious rhetoric, and political divisions, our country has a lot of thinking to do about where Jesus calls us to be and how Jesus calls us to live.  In our churches, we have a lot of work to do to spread the good news of God’s love to others, and sometimes we need to start within the congregation itself.

Regardless, Jesus isn’t physically here, but he has sent the Spirit to inspire us, nudge us, help us to figure things out, and remember what we are called to be and who we are called to be as God’s children.  May we live faithfully following Jesus to the best of our abilities.

How have you “heard” the Spirit’s voice in your life?

Where does God call you to be in ministry – in your job, school, home, neighborhood?

In what ways can you bring God’s love to others?

 

Moving

Then [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  Luke 24:50-51 (NRSV)

As a United Methodist pastor, I’m fully aware that I could be moved from year to year.  Fortunately, in my annual conference, the trend has been to leave many of the pastors in place for a longer period of time, and as I approach my eighth year serving the two small churches who are such a blessing to me, I’m grateful that I have been able to stay put for this long.  My hope is that I will be able to remain for a total of ten years which provides stability for the congregations as well as for my husband and me.

We discovered just how hard moving was when we moved to our new location.  It’s hard on the congregation to have lost a pastor, and it’s particularly challenging if that pastor was dearly beloved.  One of the things I faced in serving two very different congregations was that they each grieved in their own way, and they each needed pastoral care that applied to their situations.  So, as I pastored these wonderful new folks and began to learn about them and assimilate into their lives, I also went through my own grieving after having served my previous church for ten years.

This week was Ascension week, and the passage from Luke tells us about Jesus departing from this earth and leaving his disciples behind to carry on his mission and ministry in the world.  Maybe some of us can understand the range of emotions they felt as they watched him leave:  grief, fear, anxiety, wonder, hopefulness, and thankfulness.  The end of the passage tells us that they went to the Temple with joy and were continually blessing God.

What a great model for our churches and pastors when there is a change:  joy and blessing God!  We give thanks for the ministry we have had together, and we bless God even as we pray for the new “team” that will form with the arrival of a new pastor.  Can we trust God to provide for us, to give us hope and joy even in the midst of change and anxiety?  Maybe that is a model for all of life!  It’s certainly food for thought!  Praise God!

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