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'For Everything There Is A Season'
Ascension




'For Everything There Is A Season'




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Ascension 
Watching, Waiting, Worshipping


St Luke 24:45-53, Acts 1:9-11 (WEB)

Jesus opened the disciples' minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. He said to them, "It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send out the promise of my Father on you. But wait in the city of Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high." 

Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. While he blessed them, he withdrew from them, and as they were watching, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white clothing, who said, "You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky." 

Then they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple worshipping him, and praising and blessing God. 


How long do you wave goodbye to someone when they leave ? 

Do you drop them at the airport entrance and drive off ? Do you see them onto the train, but leave before it pulls out of the station ? Or do you stand watching and waving until they've disappeared from sight, then continue watching, hoping perhaps for a final glimpse of them ? 

If you knew you might never see them again, then how long would you stand watching and waving ? 

Have you ever stood watching so long, that someone has come to draw you away ? 

I suspect that's what happened with the disciples in the Bible account of the Ascension (above). They knew Jesus was leaving them, and that this time, they might never see him again. So they stood gazing into the sky long after he had gone. Did they hope for a final glimpse, hope he would change his mind and return ? But the disciples stood there for so long, that a couple of angels arrived to draw them away, to remind them what they were supposed to do. 

So - the Ascension of Jesus back to his Father, back into heaven. We know it happened - because we have eye witness accounts in the Bible from the disciples. But we don't know how it happened. One moment Jesus is with the disciples, then he steps away from them and is gone, hidden by a cloud, taken back into heaven. Often in the Bible, God appears shrouded in a cloud - so perhaps the cloud was God coming down to meet Jesus, to accompany him home. 

In a recent US TV series (A.D. The Bible Continues) their interpretation of the Ascension is full of boiling clouds and big drama, as angels stood on clouds waiting to welcome Jesus home. Is that how it happened ? We don't know. We can't understand how it happened, and we don't need to understand the how, but like the disciples, we need to accept the why. Jesus had to leave, because only then was he able to send his Holy Spirit to the disciples, to help, empower, direct, and guide, not only them, but all Christians of all times and places, including ourselves.  

ascension

Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until that happened. The disciples didn't know how long they would have to wait - but that's what Jesus told them to do, so they returned and waited. And so began perhaps the longest wait in history, not for the arrival of the Holy Spirit - more of that next month - but for Jesus to return as he promised, and as the angels reminded the disciples would happen. 

I suspect none of us find it easy to wait, especially when we don't know how long the waiting will last. It's so much easier to get on with things, to be 'doing' not simply 'being'. Perhaps the reason we dislike waiting, is because it reminds us that we're not fully in charge of our lives. When we are waiting for God to act, we're on God's timetable, not ours. And we can find that difficult. 

But waiting is a universal experience. Normal. Maybe even essential, in that mysterious, divine space where God is at work. 

Of course, how we wait may depend on what we are waiting for - sometimes waiting is a time of happy, eager, anticipation, but it can also be a time when we dread that the worst will happen. 

Luke tells us that while the disciples were in Jerusalem waiting, they were 'continually in the temple worshipping, and praising and blessing God'. While worshipping and praising God can be easy when things are going well, it can be a lot harder when things are difficult or uncertain. 

In the Bible, as in our own lives, we may sometimes feel that God shows up 'late'. The wait for God feels too long, and we may question why God didn't come sooner. But in God's timing he is never too late. Especially if we can open ourselves to the possibility of God speaking to us in and through our waiting. 

Do we wonder about the purpose of waiting when we can't see any inner transformation or outer benefit ? Whenever we wait, we participate in the greater wait for Christ to return. Perhaps if the participation doesn't always lead us to the purpose of waiting, then maybe the participation is God's purpose. 

The disciples spent the rest of their lives waiting for Jesus to return, but we know that while they waited they did what Jesus told them to do - they worshipped and praised God, while spreading the good news of the Gospel. 

If you are currently waiting for something, perhaps you could reflect on how you are waiting. Are you open to God speaking to you in the waiting ? Sometimes, we may need to acknowledge that God is in charge, and allow him to be God in our lives. Sometimes, remembering what God has already done, may help us hold firm to his promise that he is always with us, always loves us, which may help us continue to worship and praise him. 

Whatever we face today, whatever is going on in our lives, whatever we are waiting for, can we find something for which to praise and worship God, even while we continue the long wait for his return ? 



Ruth Gillett 2018


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