Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sermon for The Ascension

 ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 

It is very natural for the disciples to ask this question at this time.
They know that Jesus is leaving.
He has told them that the Holy Spirit is coming soon.

It is only fair they ask whether this will be the time when all things are fixed up.

But if we look at what they are asking about,
it becomes clear that they are looking in the wrong place.

The restoration of the kingdom to Israel is no small thing,
but things have just gotten a lot bigger,
and things are about to get even bigger.

The Son of God has walked the earth,
has taught, healed, been crucified and rose from the dead.
Things have changed.
His message is not just about Israel, it is about all the nations.
His teaching, his being is for the whole world, not just one race.

So things have expanded a lot.

Even more so, the Holy Spirit will come soon,
and that will change things even more.
They are to be empowered to make disciples,
to teach Jesus’ message of eternal life and love for all who hear.

Israel must seem small when compared with the eternal God.
Israel must seem like years ago when compared with eternity that stands in front of them.

Think that these men and women had followed Jesus and been with him,
seen and heard and felt all that he had done and been.
Their vision still reverted to the smaller things, to the normal.
The restoration of Israel was something that they did not need to worry about.

Their focus needed to be on Jesus, he who was about to ascend.

Things haven’t changed in many ways.

We do the same thing.

The worldwide church is brilliant at looking at other issues instead of the greater purpose.
Whether or not women can be priests.
Whether or not Anglican orders are valid.
We argue about justification by works.
Issues of human sexuality take up thousands of blog pages and hours and hours of peoples time.

Is it right to wear robes?
Is it wrong to bow to the altar?
Is it an altar or the Lord’s Table?

These things are small.

The church argues within itself about things that really don’t matter.
All the time it is focussed on these issues, it ignores the greater the greater purpose.

The greater purpose is Jesus Christ.

The disciples who ask about Israel were witnesses to his life, death, resurrection,
and now his ascension.

There was the focus.

As a part of the Church universal, we suffer the same issues, but on a smaller scale.

We worry about lawns, vacuuming, flowers.
We worry about the budget.
Are we going to be able to keep going?
We worry about whether enough people are coming to church.

I feel that we are so worried about surviving and keeping going
that we may have forgotten what we are surviving and keeping going for.

Like the disciples, we look at small issues in the grand scheme of things.

The focus needs to be Jesus.

We need to be here to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

And the good news is that we do not need to rely on ourselves to be able to do it.

‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 

As the first disciples received the Holy Spirit,
so too are we given life to be able to go and be witnesses to Jesus where we are.

If we think about longing, and waking up, then there is letting go.

By letting go of what we think we need to be in control of,
we make room for God.

We make room for guidance from the Holy Spirit.
We are open to see the bigger picture.
We are to see Jesus in all we meet, in all we do, in all we desire.

By letting go of what used to be,
what we think we need to be,
who we think we need to be,
we make room for who God needs us to be:
as individuals, as a community, as a church.

This can be very uncomfortable.
It can be unsettling.
It can also be comforting and restful.

When we let go, we hear where God is working.
We let go of expectation
and let the spirit guide, inspire, and take us where we need to be.

It is by Jesus ascension that this is at all possible:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 

And it is not only the ends of the earth, but the end of time:
 ‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Letting go may be a bit scarey,
but remember it is not being alone,
it is in fact being more together.

It is about unifying our hearts together as one, and joining with God on where he wants to take us.

This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’

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