Sunday, May 8, 2016

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

“Wherever Christ went they found revolution; wherever I go they serve tea.” — British bishop

Nothing could seem more natural, more expected, and more necessary than the Ascension of the Lord as shared both in Acts and in the Gospel of Luke today.

It almost seems matter of fact that Jesus had to return to the Father — and that was simply the next step for the disciples.

The author of Acts (presumed to be Luke) begins in a letter to Theophilus: “In the first book I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up.”

He then recounts all that had happened, especially since the resurrection, referring back even to the baptism by John with water. But a huge promise is given: “In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The naturalness of all that had happened and all that was to come reaches a climax as “he (Jesus) was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”

And, as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened, “suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.’”

In the Gospel, the ascension is described in an even more matter-of-fact way. Jesus leads the disciples out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, blessed them, then was taken up into heaven. Their response is simple and as if it was expected: “They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.”

Where are their questions? Where is their fear? No doubts, Thomas?

Another abandonment, Jesus — is this the way you treat your friends?

Why do you have to leave? What now?

Why am I the only one out here who thinks that these questions are normal?

Yet maybe this is exactly the point. Perhaps Luke is trying to tell us that this whole thing has developed and come to be exactly as God would have it.

Perhaps Jesus’ leaving and passing on the power and work and challenge of discipleship is the only way it could be. Perhaps the letting go of Jesus and the opening up to the Holy Spirit is and was the only way Jesus’ Gospel and work could ever come about.

The proclaiming and hearing of the Gospel depends upon us!

Jesus gave us the word and he gave us the call — discipleship — and the challenge to share it with the world.

Alone? No. That was how it was to be. “And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Now the stage is set, and we await the coming of the Spirit with the conviction and the openness that something deeply spiritually and irrevocable and laden with power and fruitfulness is and was about to happen.

The promise of the Spirit to be given and received did and would forever change the world.

Pentecost!

Gifts!

Spirit!

Love!

Hope!

Baptism!

Gospel!

New life!

We — church and grace; and one life. Isn’t it just as it was meant to be?

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

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