by Rev Charmaine Braatvedt
17th May 2015
Acts 1: 1 – 11
Luke 24:44 -53
The ascension of Jesus into heaven comes 40 days after his resurrection from the dead. It is a high feast day in the church calendar because it is such a significant event in the life of the church and a milestone in the unfolding of God’s plan for the salvation of the human race.
The number 40 in itself is laden with symbolism.
40 days is the time period Jesus spent in the wilderness.
40 years was the time the Israelites spent with Moses in the wilderness.
40 days is the time period after Jesus’ resurrection during which he made appearances to his disciples to reassure them that he had truly risen from the dead.
Now it was time for him to ascend into heaven, to return to the Father.
There is profound and divine reasoning behind the ascension. Jesus as one man in ministry had demonstrated how to be in right relationship with God and had through his evangelistic ministry demonstrated how to exercise the call from God to spread the Good news of the Gospel.
In Christ we see the life that God calls each one of us to live. He makes the point that the power to live this kind of life comes from God in the form of the Holy Spirit.
So now it is time for Jesus to return to the Father and for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on his followers.
Today I would like to explore two insights that came to me as I reflected on the readings set for today:
What I noticed in this passage from Luke, is that Jesus commands his disciples to return to Jerusalem and to wait there for the Holy Spirit.
In so commanding them, he introduces a ten day period of active waiting and anticipation. It occurred to me that this waiting time functions like a mini advent or lent if you like. It is an opportunity to be prayerful and reflective. It is a time during which the disciples prepare their hearts and lives so that they might become living temples for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – Shekinah.
Waiting on God is a spiritual principle that flows through the bible and indeed is present not only in the Christian and Jewish faiths, but seems to be present in all religions.
So after the ascension the disiciples enter into a period where they wait prayerfully for God’s timing and God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1: 14 we read “They all joined together constantly in prayer along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with Jesus’ brothers.”
We are also told that they used the time to replace Judas with Matthias, so that their community of faith was in right order, just as Jesus had ordained.
We take this on board as a church as we too spend the 10 days between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost preparing our hearts for the infilling of the Holy Spirit as did those men and women of the early church.
How might we do this?
This was a question which people asked of Peter in his time and his answer still holds good today.
He says in response to their question:
“Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
That’s us, you and me, members of Christ’s body, the Church.
While the principle is a general one and applies to everyone, repentance, what sins we repent for and what things we turn away from, and what we need to start doing in order to prepare our hearts for the Holy Spirit’s power to work in our lives, looks different for each one of us.
Since repentance is not something we tend to give much thought to, perhaps over these next few days we could take the opportunity to reflect on what repentance looks like in our own lives and make our personal repentance by engaging in some honest reflection on the words of the confession we used today:
We need your healing merciful God:
Give us true repentance.
Some sins are plain to us;
some escape us;
some we cannot face.
set us free to hear your word to us;
set us free to serve you.
The second insight that came to me is this.
The passage from Luke follows on from the story of the Road to Emmaus. In this story two disciples are walking to a village. They are doing their every day business and chatting along the way. I don’t know why they were going to Emmaus, the town itself I don’t think had any religious significance.
It may well be that going to Emmaus at that time, was the equivalent today of us walking down to New World to do our weekly shop and chatting with a friend en route. Anyway, it was in the midst of this everyday walk that Jesus appeared to them and gave them great insights and understandings of the Scriptures.
Then it was in a pub over the evening meal that they recognised him as he said grace and broke bread with them. They recognised him in an ordinary everyday activity.
These two men on returning to Jerusalem found the 11 disciples assembled together, not in the synagogue, nor in the temple, but just gathered for dinner.
There Jesus appeared to them, in the middle of their dinner of fish and chips! We read that they gave him a piece of broiled fish and he ate it in their presence. Then he led them to the vicinity of Bethany, to the town where his friend Lazarus lived. There out in the open he lifted up his hands blessed them and revealed his glory to them as he was taken up into heaven.
On each of the above occasions the disciples discover Jesus in the midst of their ordinary daily lives.
Now here’s the thing, having found him, we are told that they returned to the temple, their version of church, where they give thanks and praise for the revelation they had received.
WE read: “Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually (where?) In the temple, (doing what?) praising God.”
So what is my point?
My point is that all too often we come to church with the intention of finding God there mistakenly thinking that this is the only place where God is to be found.
Sure we find God here if we look for him, however, we know that God is omnipresent. This infers that God is everywhere. Most particularly it implies that God is present in our every day lives.
It is not correct to think that church is the only place to meet with God or to find God or to learn about God.
We do all of those things in church it is true, however God is also present in our every day lives and if we look for him there we will find him there just as easily as we find him in church.
Church is the place where we stand in community and give thanks for those discoveries.
In church we stand together in a spirit of gratitude and give thanks to God for the times that he revealed himself to us as we went about our daily business and for the things we learnt about him as he journeyed with us each day of the week. We give thanks for the blessings which come to us in his loving provision, his care and support, his answers to our prayers, his nurturing of us and in those around us , his beauty revealed to us through creation and so forth. We come to church to give thanks, to praise God and to worship God with all those other people in the faith community who have discovered God in the midst of their daily lives.
Look for God in the every day moments of your life and come to church to give thanks for all you have found.
So may you use this week leading to Pentecost as a mini advent during which time you make your repentance in preparation for the coming of his Holy Spirit into your lives.
May you also cultivate the habit of looking for and finding God in your every day lives and having make divine discoveries may you return here Sunday after Sunday in a spirit of gratitude to give thanks and praise to our loving and faithful Father and Friend.