1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
We are between the Ascension May 29th and Pentecost June 8th. In the reading from Acts Jesus tells his disciples that they are not to know when certain events will take place. There mission is to be his witnesses in Judea and Samara and to the ends of the Earth. Just as a side note, in the first century it was believed that the world was flat and there truly was an end to the earth.
He told them the Holy Spirit would come down upon them and they would go out to all the nations to spread Christs message. We are an extension of that command. We have been visited by the Holy Spirit through our baptism and we are to not be shy about spreading His message. His Good News.
Lets talk about the miracle in this reading. As they were watching, Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. While they were gazing up, gawking if you will, two men in white robes (white robes is always a give away in these stories) say to them, and I'm paraphrasing here, why are you standing around? He is gone and you have work to do. Stop gazing up at heaven, wondering when he is coming back. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. The kingdom awaits.
I am sure Jesus's disciples felt a sense of loss. They had spent so much time with Jesus and now he was gone. We have all had that sense of loss when someone we are close to dies or leaves. It is easy to get into a funk and grieve and that is a very appropriate and human reaction. But, after a while you realize that life goes on and there is work to be done. We are in God's kingdom and the Father expects us to carry out his mission.
I want to touch on the other readings briefly. These readings are a little turned around. The first reading, Acts, happened second. The second reading,Peter, happened third. The third reading, John, was first.
In the reading from Acts, Jesus has returned after he was put to death. He has spent forty days with his followers and is returning to the Father in heaven.
In the gospel reading from John, Jesus prays to the Father saying that his work on earth is complete. He has made the Father's name known to the world. In this reading Jesus knows he is about to face his death and resurrection. In his prayer he asks for the protection and the unity of his followers. He knows they will face persecution.
In the reading from Peter, it is some time after Jesus's ascension and the persecution is taking place. Peter encourages the followers of Jesus to discipline themselves, keep alert because, like a roaring lion, the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour. I love that imagery.
Lets return to Acts and Jesus Ascension. We were at evening prayer last Wednesday and we were doing the readings assigned for it. Afterward, Dru said that many years ago she remembered they would release balloons as a celebration of the ascension. I immediately thought, “what a great idea”. So... Sherry went out and bought balloons and helium. We have been busy blowing up balloons and I ask that the congregation join us in letting them ascend to heaven.
(On a follow up note. After we released the balloons, and I had a short children's sermon. I asked the children if any of them wanted to keep their balloon and not let it go. They all said yes. I then told them that letting go of something you like is sometimes hard and that is why Jesus's disciples were sad to see him go because he meant so much to them.)