Sermon for May 24, 2020 Ascension/Seventh of Easter
Bookends are those useful, sometimes decorative, sometimes plain devices to keep our books neat and tidy. Bookends offer the parameters to a random set of books, our favorites or a collection. Within the church year there and seasons that are set apart, defined so that we can stay on track, so to speak. From the first Sunday in Lent through Holy Week and Easter and the Sundays after Easter to Ascension, we are in that Holy prepares us for crucifixion, Resurrection and then prepares us for life without the physical presence of Jesus. The time is bookended for us and we are now at the end.
So what now?
The biblical narrative indicates the disciples are standing staring at the heavens. In awe, wonder, aghast or just waiting for Jesus to return we do not know. “Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘You from Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?” That seemed to shake the disciples to action. For they now knew that Jesus would return and the promised Spirit and advocate would soon arrive.
I do not doubt the disciple’s sense of adventure, tenacity and courage. They have shown those traits since Jesus called them to follow. That following was not always easy but they always had the real presence of Jesus. Now, before their eyes, Jesus is taken to heaven and they are on their own, so to speak.
After a time, the disciples begin to share the story of Jesus, they teach, they heal, they baptize and they are astonished at the transformation of people. Not everyone believes but enough do that the group of twelve becomes hundreds, then thousands and in time a worldwide movement.
The disciples, used to the protection of Jesus are venturing out on their own. They have no idea how different life is going to be, but they know they have each other and the promised protection of the Holy Spirit. That and first-hand knowledge of Jesus is enough for them to continue. As we will hear through the season of Pentecost, they never stop being amazed. For as much as they wanted Jesus to stay, for life to stay the same, that was never part of Jesus plan. At the end of each day, the disciples would tell stories of the wonder and power and simplicity of living the truth of Jesus.
We may need the same courage as the disciples in our day as we enter a new way of being Christian and new ways to proclaim the message of radical love and justice. The beginning of the year and for New Brunswick the beginning of March propelled us into very different ways of doing ministry. It was and continues to be uncharted territory and that is scary in its uncertainty. We are, beyond the bookends. We are learning new technology, using the phone more, praying more and for me more on the phone and we are learning. What has not changed is the promise of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.
We may wish to stand staring into the heavens wondering where Jesus went. We may desire real and lasting answers to all the questions including the COVID-19 questions. The only truth that lasts is that Jesus loves us and Jesus calls us love our neighbour. We may long for the good ole days and eventually the teens of today will also long for the good ole days. We have today, we have Jesus and we have a mission.
So now what? We can stand staring into space wondering where Jesus is…We can know that outside the tidy bookends of Lent and Easter things can and will get messy. We can put on our galoshes and play in the puddles of the messiness. We can look around, look in the mirror and know that is where Jesus is, mess and tidiness together know this is where Jesus needs us today. Thanks be to God. Amen.