1st Scripture Reading: Acts 1:1-11 & Psalm 93
As I reflect on the whole Easter story, I wonder, as always, what are we supposed to learn from all this? Not long ago it seems we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus as the Christ, and wondered at the empty tomb.
Forty days later and now we contemplate the Ascension of Jesus, purportedly to sit at the right hand of God. Think about this for a moment: Jesus, a dead man, has been hanging out with his disciples for forty days, teaching and preaching to them about the meaning of all this, opening the scriptures to them to help these deeply Jewish people to understand.
Clearly humanity has been given a gift in the being of this dedicated teacher. He taught us the importance of being cleansed of our guilt, of bringing our sins into the light of our own awareness and then asking for and accepting forgiveness and healing.
He taught us the importance of the Golden Rule, that the Way of Love was and still is the only way to the Kingdom of God. And always, he pointed beyond himself to the power, the limitless, unfathomable power of the Divine, the God he called Father.
But I digress…. Hanging out with a dead man…what can we learn from that? I believe we are to understand that Jesus hasn’t gone anywhere. The essence, the Spirit of Jesus is as with us today as it was in those forty days. “Wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name…” or even better, “Abide in me as I abide in you”. He said these things to the disciples. He did not abandon them to their fears and their doubts – instead he assured them that the Holy Spirit would always be with them and would remind them of his teachings.
Which brings us back to my question – what are we to learn from all this? To learn something useful is to learn something that is applicable in your life or mine.
Lets look for a moment at what Jesus did NOT teach or condone. He never that we know of committed any act of violence or hatred toward any person, and he didn’t allow his followers to do that either He never spoke anything but truth to anyone. He never pretended to be other than he was. He never belittled or denigrated any other person, even those who persecuted him.
Living a life that is true to your principles and beliefs – a life of integrity and compassion, that is the challenge of the Christian life. We cannot change how others choose to live their lives, but we can respect their right to do so, and we can choose to be exemplary models of the Way of Love.
Solo: “How then shall I live” Linnea Good recording
2nd Scripture Reading: Luke 24:44-53
I have chosen this morning to focus on the Ascension stories: two versions, the one from Acts we read earlier, and this one from the Gospel of Luke.
This one is more missional, having clear instructions to the disciples about what they are to do after receiving the power from on high, the Holy Spirit.
Again we see the emphasis on repentence and the forgiveness of sins. We are often called a Resurrection People. We believe in the power of God to make all things new. This might mean, people of God, that we are made new every day, as we bring our shortcomings to the light of day and ask for and accept forgiveness and healing.
We are not meant to grovel in guilt and remorse forever for the mistakes we have made. We ARE meant to accept responsibility for what we have done, and to humbly ask for forgiveness and healing.
And we are charged with a very important mission: to spread the word about this amazing gift of God, the gift of being born anew, as fresh as a new born baby, every single day- to spread this good news, far and wide to all the peoples of the earth.
Hymn #21 MV “Open our hearts”