When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:9-11 NRSV)
The story of the Ascension is so rich in symbolism that we can miss something of its simpler message. After Jesus has given his final instructions to his friends, he takes his earthly leave of them.
There is joy, bewilderment, anticipation . . .
. . . and then a couple of angels turn up and say, “What are you standing around staring at the sky for?”
And I look at that phrase and I hear echoes of, “Don’t you get it? You’ve got a job to do. There’s a world to change, and a Kingdom to be welcomed, and it’s like nothing you have ever seen before!”
Certainly the disciples were to be patient for a while. They needed to wait to see what God would do first, so that they could do His work, rather than their own thing.
But they had better be ready, and so had we.
Because when the promised gift of the Holy Spirit came they were able to go off and proclaim the Good News of Christ in word and deed, and so little Christian communities began to spring up everywhere.
The Spirit enabled, the Spirit empowered, the Spirit enthused and inspired, but the believers had to be ready and willing.
And so, in a quirky way, the message of Jesus’ ascension for us may be, “What are you standing around staring at the sky for?”
There’s work to be done. There is God’s love, not only to be shown, but to be given away. There are people to be fed, spiritually, and sometimes physically. There are prayers to be offered. There are deep relationships to be built. There is justice to be worked for and evil to be challenged.
So an important message of the Ascension is to be ready and prepared; ready to serve God with the gifts he has given us, and prepared for the opportunities and challenges we will face along the way.
you call me to wait for your guidance
before jumping in with both feet.
Help me not to use that
as an excuse to do nothing!
Show me the tasks you call me to take up,
and guide me through your Holy Spirit.