May 14 is when the Feast Day of the Ascension falls in 2015: 40 days after Easter, 10 days before Pentecost. This feast day commemorates Jesus being taken up into heaven.
Imagine it from the eyes of those who have followed Christ: traipsing around Galilee, crucifixion, and then resurrection. They’ve just gotten their beloved messiah returned, and then, poof, he’s gone again. What a whipsawed feeling they must have had.
How do we celebrate this day, so many thousands of years later? Many churches have chosen to simply ignore it. We march on to Pentecost.
But let us take a minute to acknowledge the wonder of the Ascension. It’s a fate reserved for very few in the Bible. And let us take a minute to think about Jesus, who has already suffered death, the fate which an ascension spared for the few others who experienced it.
Just like the first followers, just like Jesus, we don’t get to stand around waiting for our chance to go to heaven. There’s work to be done on earth. The coming Sundays of the time after Pentecost remind us that we’re not put on earth to wait to die. We are here to be part of the ultimate redemption of creation. Jesus began that work. We are here to further it along, at least as much as we can during our very short time here.
And how do we do that? The possible answers to that question are as varied as humanity. Some of us will pray without ceasing. Some of us will fight for social justice. Some of us will create works of art that point others to God. Some of us will visit the lonely and the sick. Some of us will give away our money so that others have the resources to do the creation redeeming work that needs to be done.
Whatever we choose, it’s important that we get to work. We don’t want to get to the end of our time here, only to be asked, “Why did you stand there slack-jawed and idle, when there was so much work to do?”
For those of us who feel like we can’t do much, consider this language from the Gospel story, the latter part of Luke 24:49: “so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
I love that language: clothed with power from on high – how would we behave if we truly believed we had been clothed with power from on high?
Pentecost will be here soon, the holiday that commemorates the first clothing with fire. But we’ve all been clothed in that way. We have all been clothed with power. Believe in that force – and then get to work in the claiming of creation.