Forty days after Easter Sunday we remember the Risen Jesus being taken up into heaven. Luke tells us what happened in the first chapter of Acts:
“After his suffering, He presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God… He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” Acts 1v3 & 7-11
That’s what we believe! His resurrection body was physically taken up into the clouds and now – wherever heaven is – there is a Man there representing us to God. Those angel messengers told the disciples He would come back, so His followers are still waiting and fully expecting Him to keep that promise… though not trying to pin a date on it like Harold Camping did a few weeks ago because Jesus specifically said that is entirely up to the Father and not for us to know! Yes, we have been waiting a long time – for many generations – but the faithful continue to hold on to those words: one day His Kingdom will come.
Meanwhile, its an ordinary Thursday in June and I am still trying to find my feet after being away in Spain for 11 days. I don’t follow the ins and outs of the church calendar too closely, so without Eileen’s text, quoting Ian Adams‘ ‘Morning Bell’, I may well have missed the significance of today:
‘The Ascension of Jesus… our earthly humanity, even our anxieties and hopes for today, is carried into the life of God, held and loved…’
Suddenly hope rises – my spirits are lifted and I too can be found like those early disciples, looking up into the sky. My heart is touched again by the gospel message that I am held secure in love – heaven and earth are not separated, but ever joined together; not only is Jesus ‘up there’ but His Spirit is also ‘down here’ – within me – a deposit guaranteeing my future with Him (2 Corinthians 1v22). And not only is this a future hope but it makes a difference to my here and now as I relax into the assurance that He knows what it is like to be human, with all its daily ‘hopes and anxieties’ and is involved in every step on the journey, however hard and long: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Matthew 28v20
I need reminders! My inner muscles have been stretched and strengthened living with the tensions of a lot of w-a-i-t-i-n-g lately! First I was waiting to go away, hoping all my plans would come together, waiting for the plane, waiting to arrive… Then there was waiting for Martin to finish sailing every day, waiting for Sam and Jessa to be ready to go out for dinner, waiting for sleep to come… waiting for Becca to arrive (would she actually be able to come, with the volcanic ash cloud threatening?): eventually I was just w-a-i-t-i-n-g to come home… the last crazy day packing up and getting everyone to their flights. Phew: I did it!
Yes we did have a good holiday, lots of sun, a valuable time together – but there are difficult moments – irritations and ups and downs – in any family. My role has been to hold it all together practically and emotionally, make it all happen – and that takes its toll. Waiting is definitely an active process, an exertion on one’s ‘patience muscles’! It is apparently a positive exercise that builds character and maturity – and eventually we will receive Paul’s ‘crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing’ 2 Timothy 4v8. Yes, ‘longing’ is such a good emotional description…
Not only is it 40 days since Easter, but today is Martin’s 60th day of time off work – and officially his last. We have had a blessed 2 months and are much refreshed: much has happened and we have a different perspective on our lives and journey than we had in early April. I have walked through the desert days and found water, persevered through the heat of the ravine, and coming out this end can see a bit further ahead now. The sense of change took me back to a post I wrote on the same theme exactly 9 months ago today… ‘coming up out of the desert’. Perhaps I am going in circles after all?! 😉
But no – we’ve come a long way and there is a undoubtedly a new phase opening up for me now – and what looks like a mountain to climb ahead! So hopefully there’ll be strength and energy to approach it with… as I know there’ll also be a whole lot more uncertainty, decisions and waiting!
But more on that next time. Meanwhile, thank God for Ascension Day!