God is in the in-between time
Prayer: Almighty God, you have called the church in to being and have gathered us into one family. By the power of your holy spirit help us live in unity and peace with all your children. May our actions this day be fruit of our faith in your kingdom. In the name of Christ. Amen
This week we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. In our modern world, what that means has been lost. I think in this day and time, we have a unique perspective on what happens with Jesus and the disciples that day. We can still receive the blessing that Jesus gave them and gives us.
1 1-5 Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God. As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.”
6 When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?”
7-8 He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”
9-11 These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans! —why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.” Acts 1:1-5
Let me describe what’s going on here. Luke, a physician is writing a letter to Theophilus. That name means ‘friend of God’. It could have a real person named that or it could have been a general written greeting, like we would use “To Whom It May Concern”. We know someone will read it, but we just don’t know who. In the book of Acts, Luke will describe all the events that happened to the disciples, the Jesus-followers AFTER Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Jesus was with them for 40 days (sound familiar? Good things always take 40 days in the Bible). Then this mysterious, unsettling but necessary event takes place. After the miracle of the resurrection, in their very human way, the disciples were ready for Jesus to do what they had been waiting for him to do…throw off the oppression of Rome and start his ‘here on earth, everything is all right now’ Kingdom. One last time, face to face, Jesus tells them they have the wrong end of the stick. They aren’t getting a physical, governmental political kingdom. Instead they’re getting the gift of the Holy Spirit and they themselves will become the Kingdom.
Then just as strangely as he had arrived on this earth, he disappears. And yet, the manner of his birth and the manner of his ascension, his literal “going up” tell us a lot about this new kingdom. One of the hallmarks of this new kingdom is that it’s personal. Only Mary and Joseph were there at Jesus’ arrival. Oh yes, the word spread but it started out with just two people. And when Jesus ascended, his going didn’t take over the whole sky. Only the few people who were there actually saw what happened. But again, the word spread.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit that in just a few short days would come to all the disciples and the world would never be the same. But for now they had to wait and trust.
And for now, we have to wait and trust. We want so much for our earthly church to be restored in the way we want it. Just like the disciples wanted a government the way they knew it should be. It’s not that they were wrong to want what they did but it just wasn’t the time and Jesus was giving them something so much better. We want out cozy gatherings with hymnals and communion and hugs the way it used to be. It’s not wrong to want that. But God our Father, Jesus our Brother and the Holy Spirit our Comforter and Friend want to give us something so much better. And for now, we have to wait until we are shown, like the disciples at Pentecost, what that is.
So we wait here in the in between time, trusting, doing the next right thing. Waiting and watching, all the time encouraging each other, knowing that we have put our hope in Holy Love.