“You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:48-49 (NRSV)
The ascension of Jesus is a rather strange image to our 21st century minds. Maybe if we were great Star Trek watchers, we might remember “Beam me up, Scotty!” I was always pretty fascinated with the whole molecular transference in that series.
However, the story of Jesus ascending into heaven is quite amazing, not because he was lifted into the heavens as much as the commission he gave his disciples. Whether or not Jesus was actually taken into heaven and disappeared into clouds is what we tend to see and focus on for this particular Sunday, but the lasting effect of his returning to be with God did at least two things.
First, he returned from the earthly confines to his place in the heavenly realm after having brought the presence of God-in-the-flesh to earth. And secondly, he left behind people whom he had trained for three years to carry on his work of sharing God’s love and spreading the Good News that God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy is for all people.
After the ascension, the disciples didn’t just stand there looking (as Acts 1 reports. In Luke’s gospel (interesting that the writer of Luke was probably the writer of Acts, also!), the disciples returned to the temple to praise and worship and bless God. They were actively involved in worship.
As the disciples grew in experience and knowledge, as well as being inspired by the Holy Spirit, they were sent out into the world. They didn’t stay put; rather, they dispersed to other parts of the world as they knew it to proselytize and invite others to hear the message of God’s redemption and love in Jesus, the Christ.
Ascension Sunday is a reminder that we are counted among the disciples, as well. The original commission may have been for the first century followers of Jesus, but even in the 21st century, we are called to be witnesses to our faith in our words and actions. We become the invitation to know Christ because of the wonderful works God has done in our lives.
Ascension Sunday reminds us that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are also called and sent forth. We are also asked and expected to carry on the work of Christ by bringing compassion, kindness, hope, healing, and love to the world. And we are called to worship our God together as the Body of Christ.
How does that look in your life?
In what ways do you share your faith?
How do you share it every day?