May 10, 2018 Abbey Church Abraham
The ascension of Jesus (no matter if it occurred on the evening after the Resurrection or forty days later, and no matter if he went up, or out, or wherever) brings about the close of one era while preparing the beginning of another era. In one way, the works of Jesus are now over, but in another way, the works of Jesus are just beginning with the works of the church. One body of Christ was taken from the earth and replaced with another one. We are given the job of being the body of Christ: “the fullness of Him who fills all in all”, as Paul puts it in our second reading this morning.
It seems difficult to fill our own little corner of the planet with grace and love, much less the entire expanding universe. Paul prays that his readers might understand a little of this when he asks that their minds might be enlightened to see the glory they will inherit – the glory of a world in harmony under Christ and in Christ. Honestly, being enlightened that much seems more than anyone could really handle. Jesus, being fully human, knows that we could never endure such enlightenment on our own, or do his work by ourselves, so he tells his disciples to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit before they attempted any of it.
The gift of the Holy Spirit that the disciples were to wait for is often a puzzle to Christians, or should be. The readings today do not clear up many of those questions, but it does seem clear that the Holy Spirit is a gift who enables us to spread the gospel. Often it seems that the Holy Spirit is more of a burden than a gift – when we want to spread the gospel our way instead of God’s way. Many times we are like the disciples and we want to know “when the kingdom will be restored to Israel?”, or in our words: “when will justice and peace flourish?”. Jesus says that’s not for us to know – we are instead to wait for the Holy Spirit. So, maybe the Spirit is a gift who lets us know and do what we need to know and do.
Before he sends them back to Jerusalem, Jesus tells the disciples that they are witnesses to what he has said and done. We need to continue that witness – bringing to the world the Jesus that we know, not the Jesus that we don’t know. We also need to stop staring into the sky and instead wait for the Spirit to tell us what to do.
So, Jesus is gone, but also still very much here. He is Lord and head of the church, he is beyond time and space, yet fills time and space. His power is limitless, and he is in us. The one who holds all things together is now as close to us as we are to each other, and as close as he was to Joseph and Mary growing up, and to John as he leaned against his breast, and to Mary and Martha as they sat around the house. As we wait for the Holy Spirit to tell us what to do, Jesus is still with us, and he will be with us as we do his work, guided by his Holy Spirit. AMEN