Read Acts 1.6-11.
When we lived in Brasil we were astounded the first time we ever saw an orange tree (larangeira). Such abundance. Our Brasilian friends then taught us to ‘chupar’ the fruit, in other words we squeezed and sucked, then discarded what was left. We had enjoyed that which was the essence, we discarded the protective shell.
This is one way into Ascension Day which was last Thursday. ‘As they were watching he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.’ It could be a literal description, but that works best if we had a flat earth, heaven therefore is up. Most, if not all of us, are not flat earthers. Let us therefore look at what the essential message of Ascension Day is.
It surely bears repeating that the basic point is the aliveness of Jesus. The next is the reality of what we might call the absence of Jesus, certainly in terms of physical bodily presence. Next week’s message will be about the gift of the Holy Spirit -the way in which Jesus is present. But today let us pause for a moment to consider the tension for the Christian believer, the conviction of that aliveness, yet, yet, yet….. Are there not still times when we would love to feel close, to know? Why are we still anxious, uncertain? Where is Jesus?
We can answer, ‘in heaven’ of course, but that alone still leaves a distance. So let us think of how this episode says that the limitations of time, and place we experience no longer apply to Jesus, now the Risen and Ascended Lord. This day reminds Christians to look up as it were, Jesus is Lord worthy of praise and worship in the here and now of life.
There is, however, that question ‘Why do you stand looking up towards heaven?’
Then an affirmation follows, ‘this Jesus …… will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’. Does that mean Christians are to look for the ‘signs of his coming’? The reason that does not seem to be a priority is precisely because of the preceding question ‘Why do you stand looking up towards heaven?’. Just as those disciples were redirected back to earth so Christians are called to make a difference in the here and now of life.
From Gathering for Worship
Lift up our heads, that we may see Christ in all his glory and all things in their true perspective. When we stand gazing upwards, bring us down to earth: with the love of a friend, through the songs of the sorrowing, in the faces of the hungry. Amen