Waiting for Power
I have called today “Ascension Sunday,” even though there is no such thing, liturgically. (We were supposed to have been in church last Thursday, on Ascension Day.) I have called this Ascension Sunday because this is the day when Jesus “lifted up,” as our first lesson says, the day from when we can no longer see Jesus with our eyes. Properly speaking, though, this is the Last Sunday of the season of Easter, that awkward time between the actual day of Jesus rising to heaven and the day when Jesus’ Spirit came to dwell on all of his disciples. So, today is a day when we have to do what none of us like to do, WAIT, in this case, wait for Power.
On THIS day, the disciples were on a mountain with Jesus, not unlike today, several hours drive from their city. Wait, WE are the ones who are several hours drive from our city. The disciples were a “Sabbath Day’s journey” away. I learned this week from Frances in Bible study that a “Sabbath Day’s journey” is a half a mile, the distance that the Jews could walk on the Sabbath without breaking the law. Of course, Jesus’ original disciples didn’t have cars, so THEY had had a hike to get to their mountain—Mount Olivet, the Mount of Olives. Why were they there? Jesus took them there to say goodbye. Jesus took them to Mount Olivet because this is where the prophets 2Isaiah and Ezekiel said that God will go from this earth, and where God will come again to this earth. By implication, THEIR mountain is where Christ Jesus will return when he ushers in a New Jerusalem, a new creation, at the end of time.
So Jesus’ disciples had come together on a mountain, much like we are doing today (but without the comfortable seats). And Jesus’ disciples thought their deepest wish of Jesus was about to come true. Have you ever had one of THOSE moments, when you realized your OWN agenda was all entangled, all mixed up, with your worship and your prayers?
This was such a moment for the original disciples. They knew something major was about to happen. But they didn’t know what. Their guess revealed what had primarily been motivating them all along to follow Jesus:
- “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the Kingdom to Israel?”
- “Lord, you will let me see my grandchildren grow up, won’t you?”
- “Lord, you will give Church of the Resurrection new life, won’t you, just the way Resurrection was in the old days?”
I don’t know what you really want most from Jesus—maybe you don’t, either. Sometimes our hearts desire of God is hidden. I love Jesus’ answer, though. Jesus would have made a good Anglican. Jesus said, “It’s not for you to know what will happen, or when. That’s up to God. [You’ll have to wait.]”
Basically, Jesus says we are asking the wrong things of God. Jesus says that we will “Receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon us.” Jesus says this is necessary because God has a big job for his disciples to do—God has a big job for US to do. But we have to wait to receive Power from above.
Just as Jesus’ disciples were staring up into the sky, wondering what to do next, they got a nudge from an unexpected source. Two men in white robes appeared to them and, basically, sent them home to Jerusalem to wait for this Power from above. Isn’t that just like God? God gives us a big job to do, then makes us wait to begin doing that job.
Doesn’t God know we aren’t getting any younger? Doesn’t God know we need to get this show on the road, his show on the road? We have things all mapped out (God evidently doesn’t understand Project Manager and timelines and how to get things done down below here; HA!). Why, though, did God give his disciples a huge mission to do, then make them wait?
Our lesson today tells us what to do between being given a life-changing—a life-challenging—mission, and beginning that mission: We are to wait for, pray for, and to not begin until we receive Power from above. We need the Holy Spirit to set us on fire and empower us to actually carry out God’s mission. We are to be absolutely sure this is God’s mission, and not our own. How? By doing what we are doing today, by constantly devoting ourselves to prayer.
(To be continued next week…)
 Isaiah 40:9-11
 Ezekiel 11:23; 43:2
 Revelation 21:10