Acts 1:6-9, Ephesians 1:15-19 & Luke 24:44-53
Ascension Sunday – May 13, 2018
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Acts 1:6-9 Message
15 Since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that 16 I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, 19 and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength. 20 God’s power was at work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and sat him at God’s right side in the heavens, 21 far above every ruler and authority and power and angelic power, any power that might be named not only now but in the future. 22 God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, 23 which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:15-23 CEB
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:44-53 NRSV
Jan Richardson is a follower of Jesus who uses her gifts of abstract painting, poetry and reflection to serve Him and bless the human family. In 2011 she offered a Mother’s Day reflection….telling how her parents enjoyed their first three years of marriage in the state of Alaska where her dad was stationed with the Air Force. Hailing from Florida, the couple returned home after his stint, bringing with them memories, photos and slides. They raised their three children in the Sunshine state…peppered with memories of Alaska, ‘the last frontier’. While the children sometimes complained about frequent slide shows offering glimpses into that adventurous past, Jan cherishes those memories today.
This legacy became personal for Jan when she visited Alaska with her mother for two weeks in the mid 90’s, soaking in the sweeping mountainous views while enjoying her mother’s stories.
Her reflection reaches for a wider truth: “When I think of what endures in my life—what has shaped me, what grounds me and helps me know who I am—I think of the landscape my parents passed along to me. Not just the physical layout of the part of Florida that has been home to us, but also the landscape that is created in the telling of stories, and the making of new ones.
Our mothers are our first landscape, our original terrain, creating us and sheltering us in the space of their own body. When we have mothers who know, or learn along the way, how to keep creating the landscape for us and with us—when they can fashion a terrain that provides both sanctuary and the freedom to find the contours of our own life—that is gift indeed.
On this Mother’s Day, I celebrate and give thanks for my own mother—Judy Scott Richardson—and all the mothers who have been able to provide this tremendous gift. And I offer prayers for those women who, owing to the gaps and fissures in their own landscape, have left pain and emptiness in the space where a mother should have been. For those who choose to enter into the empty, motherless places—the “othermothers” who come in the form of teachers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, neighbors, friends—bless you and thank you for your mothering hearts. For all the mothers—mothers by blood, mothers by heart—a blessing to you on this Mother’s Day.” (Jan Richardson, Sanctuary for Women, posted 5/7/11, cited on terxtweek.com, 5/12/13)
Jan then shared this blessing:
Blessing the Mothers
Who are our
a space of blessing
with their own being:
with the belly
the bone and
if not with these,
then with the
that offers itself
and grow wide,
to gather itself
Who lean into
the wonder and terror
of loving what
they can hold
but cannot contain.
n some part of themselves
a corner of consciousness
keeping perpetual vigil.
that the story
is what endures
is what binds us
is what runs deeper
even than blood
and so they spin them
of what abides
on what remains:
a simple gladness
that latches onto us
and graces us
on our way.
Jesus was at home in his own skin. He was comfortable being a man, but at the same time able to embrace the feminine parts of his being. I would suggest that his use of the intimate name Abba included both a fatherly and motherly dimension—Papa & Mama. Jesus didn’t need to understand God as male, nor support the patriarchal system so entrenched as the status quo of his day. He was bigger than that….freer in God’s love. Hence, looking out over the city of Jerusalem he cried: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34) Jesus had no problem identifying with motherly instinct.
Jesus’ mother, Mary of Nazareth, holds a special place for Christians. Through her, her firstborn knew a mother’s love. Because of that experience Jesus, in his public ministry, was able to embrace people with the gentle fierceness of a mother’s love. He intuitively knew what it was to be a protective parent. Even those who resisted Our Lord’s reconciling good news didn’t escape the reach of his love.
Perhaps that sort of love was part of what he felt the day he gathered his closest friends on a hilltop to say goodbye—Ascension Day. Just before he disappeared physically he commanded that they should wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit….his Spirit…who would be present and dwell in them. The Spirit would empower them to serve in his name.
The story of the Ascension is about Jesus’ leave-taking…his physical leaving. It’s also about what is left once a person is no longer present…a legacy…..in this case Jesus’ legacy. Which may bring to mind our parents and the legacy they have left to us…particularly today our mothers and the ‘other mothers’ who have touched our lives.
Like Jan Richardson’s Mom, Jesus had tended the well-being of the people under his care…”fashioning a space of blessing with his own being: with his bone and blood…with his durable heart that offered itself generously to break and grow wide, to gather itself around his friends as refuge, as home.” On the hilltop it was important to remind his closest followers that through his Spirit, Jesus would abide with them…and, by implication, abide with all who have taken up following him ever since.
Paul’s prayer in Ephesians speaks of The Creator’s purpose in sending Jesus and the legacy Jesus leaves: “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength.
- Jesus came to make God known to people like us, to reveal the Creator
- Jesus came to enlighten people’s hearts so they live hopefully and purposefully as God’s people.
- God sent Jesus to plant the seeds of the Beloved Community, and via the Spirit at work among us to nurture this Community to be the witnessing Body of Christ, continuing Christ’s ministry in the world.
Jesus leaves a legacy of passion which is transformed into compassion, mercy and hope for a hurting world. His legacy is embodied through people as ordinary and unique as you and me. When we are at our best, God being our help, others experience a tangible demonstration of God’s love in action…and God’s dream for humanity.
The Way of Jesus is a call to be humble and genuine, generous and honest, always accepting the person despite his or her behavior, affirming the truth that each person is a child of God and much beloved by the Creator, believing in those who have lost belief in themselves. And it is so much more…
God desires to enkindle in this congregation a yearning to be used for Christ’s purposes in our everyday lives. This includes continuing to perform the ministries in which you are already engaged as a congregation like the Thrift Shop, strengthening what you do well, deepening your growth as adult disciples of Christ, and practicing the love of Jesus in relationships with one another and your neighbors.
One mantra of my walk with Christ came from a song title I heard 40 years ago: “there’s more to living than I know so far.” My prayer for you all is that as a new season opens you will continue steadfastly on the journey of spiritual maturing, that you will foster meaningful worship, celebration, education, fellowship, shared projects, prayer, fun and laughter….for all this expresses the legacy of Christ. So I encourage you, by God’s grace, to live forward into all the possibilities of a God-shaped, God-blessed future. Amen.