The ascension of our Lord
Yep, he’s gone. Can’t see him at all anymore. Nope, he’s out of sight. Is this what we do in response to the ascension? Do we just stand around gazing into the sky? Do we focus on him leaving? Do we focus on our being left here on Earth without him? What do we do?
There are many times where we are in between different things. Something has started, but it is not yet complete. Something has started to change, but it is still not finished. We can think of some of those times. When a couple is separated but not divorced. When someone has moved out of one home, but has not yet moved into another. When we are treated for an illness, but we are not cured, or maybe not yet cured. When a person is terminal, but still alive. When we are hired, but not yet on the job. When someone has resigned, but is still working. When a candidate is elected, but not yet in office. When a person is convicted, but not yet sentenced; or when a person is sentenced, but has not started serving that sentence. When a woman is pregnant. When a person is a teenager. In all of these cases, we are in between one thing and another. Change has started, but it is not complete. Life is different, but we do not yet know what it will be. Life is up in the air, so to speak. Things are in flux. What do we do?
This was the question that the disciples had. Christ had ascended. He was gone, but the Holy Spirit had not yet come. They had been promised this gift of power, but they did not have it yet. They went back into Jerusalem and waited. This is what Jesus told them to do. They waited, they prayed, and they read the Bible. Of course for them the Bible was what we would call the Old Testament. They waited, and waited. How hard is it to wait? How hard is it to not do anything, when we do not know what will happen? This is what the disciples were doing. They did not know what was going to happen. They did not know how long they would have to wait. Jesus had said he would send the comforter, but they had no idea what that meant. Jesus said that they were to wait until they received power, but they did not know what form that would be in. They went back to Jerusalem, and waited.
We find it hard to wait. We like to do something. We like to take action. Especially in the United States, our culture goes against waiting. We have an expression, don’t just sit there, do something. There is another expression; idle hands are the devil’s play things. We like to be busy. We like everyone else to be busy. If there is a problem, we like it solved. We like people to take action. Sometimes that is the wrong approach. Sometimes there is no action to take. When I was doing my clinical training, there was a favorite expression of the instructor: don’t just do something, sit there. Don’t just do something, sit there. When a person is very ill, sitting with that person may be what is needed. When a person is dying, I cannot fix it. There is nothing to do. Just sit there. When a person has just died, and the family is in shock, don’t try to fix things. Don’t jump to trying to make the person feel better. Just sit there. Sit there with the person. Be present. Listen. This is often what we are called to do. This is what the apostles did. They sat and listened.
We have a hard time with this. The main problem is that we like to fix things. We like to think that we have power. We like to think that we are in control. In other words, we would rather be God, than serve God. When we exert our will, we are trying to take over from God. This is what we want. Fortunately we are not in control. Fortunately God is in control. So what do we do to submit our wills to God? What do we do so that we are serving God?
I think that the first thing to remember is that we cannot of our own ability serve and love God. God gives us the ability to serve him, but even so, we still do it imperfectly. We try and try, and never get it right, but that does not matter. What matters is that through Jesus we have been freed to serve God, even though we do it imperfectly. We have freed through the cross to do God’s will. We have been freed from sin so that we can live our lives to God’s glory. And we start by listening to God. We start by being quiet, and not trying to do anything. And we are going to do that right now.
(“From the Pulpit” is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)