So, we’ve been living this story for a while now and it seems to be coming to an end of sorts. Not really an end, of course, because it’s still there, but we’re at least at a point where things are changing, we’re leaving some things behind and we can look ahead to things being different. A new story is beginning and we’re likely wondering “now what?”
You’re likely thinking that I’m talking about the pandemic and what we’re experiencing right now – and I am – but I’m also talking about the story you might be living if you know Jesus. That story, as it so often is, is reflected in the real life story we’re living and has something important to say about it.
We’re coming to the end of the season of Easter and, just before we leap into the excitement of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, there’s a very important story that I think has something to say to us right now. Forty days after Easter comes the story of The Ascension of Jesus, his final departure from the disciples: the resurrected Jesus is taken up into heaven in a great cloud, followed by the appearance of two figures in white robes who remind the disciples that, just as he is leaving now, he’ll be back. (Acts 1:1-11)
I think this story’s a way bigger deal than the time we give it. What we’ve made of it in our religious traditions aside, it’s the hinge between the stories of Jesus in the gospels and the living out of the teaching of Jesus in the earliest days of the church. It’s the opening story of the book of Acts and that’s what the book’s all about, those days after Jesus is gone and the disciples begin to live into the Jesus that’s in them.
Wait. Let me backtrack on that a minute because that’s precisely why this story speaks to us right now.
Picture this. The disciples are standing around and Jesus is telling them “my work here is done, it’s time for you to go and do the things I taught you, to share your experiences with others and help them learn to make a better world.” He might as well have said “here, I’m passing the torch to you, now go and do it.” He gives them a wave and off he goes to heaven. And the disciples just stand there watching him go. The figures in white robes appear and their first words are literally “why are you just standing here looking up at the sky?” (Acts 1:11)
Imagine what was going on in the disciples’ heads. They’d been through so much. They dropped everything to follow Jesus. Then Jesus is killed and they grieve that he is gone. But then he’s alive and they were just coming to terms with that when he’s gone again. Now what? On top of the amazement at the way he leaves – a second time – they’re likely wondering what to do now – a second time. And they might be tempted to just stand there, wondering where to go now. And, ringing in there ears, they might hear Jesus saying “get on with it.”
So might we. We’ve learned a lot as we’ve struggled with this pandemic, and continue to struggle with it. We’ve experienced a lot and shared a lot, at a distance. We’ve seen what’s really important. We’ve seen kindness, grace, courage and caring. I’d say we’ve seen people being Jesus.
Let’s go forward with caution and safety, but let’s go forward. Let’s take all we’ve learned and experienced and, together, make the world better. I’d say, let’s be Jesus.