A woman was stuck in traffic, furious about everyone’s inability to drive. She laid on the horn, banged on the steering wheel, had a road rage temper tantrum. In mid-rant, she was interrupted by a police officer charging, “Lady, you’re under arrest. Get out of the car and put your hands up.”
She was finger-printed and photographed, processed and booked. Hours passed until the police officer returned, unlooked her cell and apologized. He said, “I was behind you in traffic, heard you cussing the world out. And I noticed the two bumper stickers on your car. One said, ‘Follow me to Sunday School.’ The other, ‘What Would Jesus Do?'”
So I assumed you had stolen the car. (Joanna Adams paraphrased story)
Ascension is less about Jesus’ glorious departure for heaven, and more about our ascension to discipleship on earth. That only in his absence can we be present in his name.
So how are we commissioned?
Luke 24:44-53- 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.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 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, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. 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.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Claimed by the Holy Spirit, empowered for the mission of the Church.
Sent out knowing that we are the only Jesus that most people will ever experience.
Called to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Trusted to do even greater works.
There’s nothing more offensive than a Christian behind the wheel of life cursing people out in the name of Christ. So enough with the “God damn its.” God doesn’t damn what is holy; God doesn’t damn was is consecrated; God doesn’t damn what is created good.
In Matthew, the gospel ends with the commission, “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” In Mark, “Proclaim the Good News to all the world.” In John, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep.” And in Luke, we are charged with continuing what God has already begun: God blessed creation, God blessed the creatures, God blessed the Sabbath, God blessed the land, God blessed the crops, God blessed the work. And so, for his last act on earth, Jesus laid his pierced hands on the disciples and blessed them.
A pastor was called to the psychiatric ward to visit a congregant, and asked to bring communion. There, the bread was broken and the cup was poured and the meal was shared.
Finishing at the table, a nurse entered with the day’s pills. The patient looked to the pastor and requested, “Would you bless the medicine if I take it?”
Bless the ants at a picnic and the raisins on a piece of celery, bless the squeaking wheel and the rolling thunders, bless the guttural groan and the breathy whisper, bless the grandfather’s death and the daughter’s baptism, bless your enemy and bless your heart. Bless it all because the world will know us by what we bless.
So reach out your hands and lay them on the nearest sibling saying, “God bless you.”