The Sunday after the Ascension
May 29, 2022
Revelation 22.12-13, 16-17, 20-21
+ This past Wednesday evening, we celebrated the Eve of the feast of the Ascension.
Now, for most of us, this just isn’t that big of a feast day for us.
In fact, I don’t know a whole lot of Christians who, quite honestly, even give the Ascension a second thought.
Some of us might look at the Ascension as a kind of anticlimactic event.
The Resurrection has already occurred on Easter morning.
That of course is the big event.
The Ascension comes as it does after Jesus has appeared to his disciples and has proved to them that he wasn’t simply a ghost, but was actually resurrected in his body.
In comparison to Easter, the Ascension is a quiet event.
The resurrected Jesus simply leads his followers out to Bethany and, then, quietly, he is taken up by God into heaven.
And that’s it.
There are no angels, no trumpet blasts.
There is no thunder or lightning.
He just goes.
And that’s that.
So, why is the Ascension so important to us?
Well, it’s important on two levels.
One, on a practical level, we recognize the fact that, at the Ascension, this is where our work begins.
This is when our work as followers of Jesus begins.
We, at this point, become the Presence of Jesus now in the world.
This is where we are now compelled to go out now and actually do the work Jesus has left for us to do.
Those apostles who are left gazing up at Jesus don’t just simple linger there, wringing their hands, wondering what has just happened.
Well, actually, yes, that’s exactly what they do.
For a while anyway.
But eventually, with a BIG prompting from the Holy Spirit, they get going.
They go out and start doing what they are meant to do.
But we’re going to talk about that NEXT Sunday on the feast of Pentecost.
For now, we’re here, with them, watching Jesus being taken up, out of their midst.
For now, we know Jesus is taken out of our midst and is seated at the right hand of God.
Again, this is the point in which we become the presence of Christ in this world.
Now, I love the Feast of the Ascension!
What I love about the feast is that it is more than just going out to do Jesus’ work.
Which brings us to our second point.
Again and again, as we see in the life of Jesus, it isn’t just about Jesus.
Our job is not simply to observe Jesus and bask quietly in his holiness.
A lot of Christians think that is all it is.
It’s about us too.
When we hear the stories of Jesus birth’ at Christmas, we can look at them as simply fantastic.
They are wonderful stories that happened then and there, to him.
Or…we could see them for what they are for us.
We could see it our birth story as well.
God worked in the life of Mary and Joseph and God’s own Son was born.
But it should remind us that God worked in our birth as well.
Well. Maybe not with angels and shepherds.
But God worked in our lives even from the beginning, as God did in the life of Jesus.
With Jesus, born as he was, with God’s special light and care upon him, we too were born.
Jesus’ birth became our birth.
At Easter too, we could simply bask in the glorious mystery of Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb.
But the story doesn’t really mean anything to us until we see ourselves being resurrected with him.
His resurrection is our resurrection as well.
God, who raised Jesus, will raise us as well.
Well, the same thing happened last Thursday.
Jesus’s ascension is our ascension as well.
What God does for Jesus, God does for us too.
That’s incredibly important to understand!
We are not simply followers of Jesus.
We are sharers with Jesus in all that happens to him.
And that is incredibly wonderful!
The event of the Incarnation is a reminder that in much the same way God is incarnate in Jesus so God is incarnate in us as well.
So, regarding the Ascension, it is important for us to look at what happened and see it not only with Jesus’ eyes, but our eyes as well.
Yes, we are rooted to this earth, to creation.
We are children of this world.
But we are also children of the next world as well.
We are children of heaven too.
Jesus tells us in our reading from Revelation today:
“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work.”
Our reward, as children of Heaven, is with the One who says,
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
What the ascension reminds us is that we are inheritors of heaven too.
We, like Jesus, will one day ascend like him, beyond this world.
We will be taken up and be with God, just as Jesus is with God.
In fact, our whole life here is a slow, steady ascension toward God.
We are moving, incrementally, upward toward God.
This is our journey.
And as we do, as we recognize that we are moving upward, slowly ascending, like Jesus, to that place in which we ultimately belong, we should be feeling what Jesus no doubt felt as he ascended.
When we are happy—when we are joyful—we often use the word soar.
Our hearts soar with happiness.
When we are full of joy and happiness we imagine ourselves floating upward.
In a sense, when we are happy or in love or any of those other wonderful things, we, in a sense, ascend.
Conversely, when we are depressed we plunge.
We go down.
So this whole idea of ascension—of going “up”—is important.
Jesus, in his joy, went up toward God.
And we, in our joy, are, at this very moment, following that path.
We have followed Jesus through his entire journey so far.
We have followed him from his birth, through his ministry, to his cross.
We have followed him to his descent into hell and through his resurrection from the tomb.
And now, we are following him on his ascension.
And it is joyful and glorious.
In this world.
Doing the work God gives us to do.
And what is that?
Well, for me, right now, it is doing 11 burials in one month.
It’s being so bone-weary tired that I stand here before you bleary-eyes and aching.
It also means that, weary as we may be, we are in this world.
This sometimes very ugly, very violent world.
In this world in which innocent children and teachers get brutally executed in their classrooms by insane people with perfectly legal automatic weapons.
And the response from people to this tragedy to defend the guns!
Yes, when we see children beating others with a stick, we punish the child.
But we also TAKE THE STICK AWAY!
But not in this topsy-turvy world, where the guns become more important the lives of children.
But this also becomes clear that our job here is not done.
It’s not enough that we pray about this.
It’s not enough that we send our sympathies to those who died.
It is far past time to DO SOMETHING.
It is time to stand up and SPEAK OUT.
It is time to work to change things.
Your votes matter.
Use them to get your representatives to change things.
Don’t wring your hands like the disciples of Jesus after the Ascension, wondering what to do next.
You know what to do.
So let’s do it!
So, here we are.
In this place.
In this world.
Doing the best we can.
And just when we think God has provided just what we need for this journey, we find one more truly amazing gift to us.
Next week, an event will happen that will show us that Jesus remains with us in an even more extraordinary way.
On that day—Pentecost Sunday—God’s Spirit will descend upon us and remain with us always.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
For now, we must simply face the fact that it all does fall into place.
All that following of Jesus is now really starting to pay off.
We know now—fully and completely—that God will never leave us alone.
In what seems like defeat, there is amazing resurrection, and ascension.
In what seemed like being stuck to an earth that often feels sick and desolate, we are now soar.
So, today, and this week, as we remember and rejoice in the Ascension, as we prepare for the Holy Spirit’s descent, let our hearts ascend with Jesus.
Let them soar upward in joy at the fact that God is still with us.
Let us be filled with joy that God’s Spirit dwells within us and can never be taken from us.
As we heard in our reading from Revelation today:
“Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.”
Let us take this gift of the water of life.
Let us rise up, in joy.
Let it rise up in us and sing through us to those around us we are called to serve.
Loving God, raise us, with Jesus, to that place at your side where we can be what you intended us to be and live as you intended us to live; and may always do what you call us to do both in this life and the next; we ask this in the name of Jesus who sits at your right hand in glory. Amen.