When the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
Acts 1: 6-11 New Living Translation
As I sit here writing this on Bank Holiday Monday, or Early May Bank Holiday as it is often called, I am reminded that we seem to have lost the significance of this week in our Christian Year. I am old enough to remember getting a day’s holiday from school, not on a Monday, but on the Thursday of the week to mark Ascension Day.
How easily we forget one of the most important events in the life of our Lord. Had the risen Jesus not ascended to take his place at the Father’s right hand, we may never have received the power of the Holy Spirit, and perhaps the Good News would never have been told in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria and to the the ends of the earth.
The passage from Acts not only reminds us of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but also that, like the original disciples, we are not to spend our time staring into heaven, but, until the day Jesus returns, we have been given work to.
As we recall the final chapter of Your Son’s presence among us in human form, the time he returned to be by your side once again, we give thanks that this was not the end, but a new beginning.
The disciples faced the prospect of life without the human Jesus by their side, but they did not linger looking toward heaven, they accepted that their lives had changed, and they had a new challenge, new work to do. The past lay behind them, and a whole new and exciting future lay before them.
In obedience to You they waited for the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit, and then moved forwards. With the help of the Holy Spirit, they began to spread the Good News of the Gospel far and wide.
Help us to remember that until Jesus returns, we too have work to do, spreading the Good News to all who will listen. Help us to realise that we will not achieve this inside our church buildings, where we seem to spend our time and effort working to preserve bricks and mortar, but that we need to go outside our buildings, and bring the Good News to places where the people of today can be found.
Help us to remember that Church is the people of God, not a building, and that our calling is no different to that of those first disciples who were reminded not to stand staring into heaven, but to tell people everywhere about Jesus.