Ascension B

From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
Today’s readings describe the ascension of the Lord Jesus into his heavenly glory
after he had promised his disciples his Holy Spirit as their source of heavenly power, and commanded them to bear witness to him throughout the world by their lives
and preaching.  But the ascended Jesus is still with us through his indwelling Holy Spirit as he has promised, "I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”   Today’s feast celebrates Jesus final glorification after his suffering, death   and resurrection    a glory in which we hope to share.

Scripture Lessons

The first reading  gives an account of the event of Jesus ascension as recorded in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. First, Jesus instructed his apostles to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the baptism by the Holy Spirit so that they might become his “witnesses to the ends of the earth by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then a cloud took Jesus from the sight of the disciples and two heavenly messengers in white garments gave them the assurance of Jesus second coming” or return in glory.  Today's psalm suggests that, by his Ascension, the risen Lord "mounts his throne" in glory.  In the second reading,  Paul explains the theological meaning of Jesus exaltation, giving us the assurance that one day, we, too, will be ascending to heavenly glory, provided we carry out the mission entrusted to us by the ascending Lord. Today's gospel describes  how  Jesus  ascended  to  heaven  after  giving  his  final  blessing  and missionary command to his disciples. The command was toproclaim the good news to every creature(Mark 16:15), to be his witnesses"(Acts 1: 8), and to make disciples of all
 n ation s.”  (Matthew 28:19).

Life Messages

1)  We  need  to  be  proclaimers  and  evangelizers:  To  be  a  Christian  is  to  be  a proclaimer and an evangelizer.   There is a difference between preaching and proclaiming.  We preach with words but we proclaim with our lives.  Let us ask the guidance of the Spirit of God to bear witness to Jesus by our transparent Christian lives. 2)  We need to transmit his teachings to the world:  Jesus taught us lessons of faith, hope, love, forgiveness, mercy and salvation by his life and preaching and gave us the mission to teach these to others.    Hence, let us learn about Jesus and his teachings by our daily study of the Bible and the teachings of the Church, experience him in personal prayer, reception of the sacraments and works of charity, and convey to others Jesus whom we have experienced with the help of his Holy Spirit.

3) We need seek our help in this mission from the ascended Jesus who is our strength and encouragement: We will be able to overcome doubts about our faith and baseless fears,  anxieties and worries by meditating on Jesus Ascension and the lesson it teaches, that we, too, are called to share his glory in heaven. L/12



First Reading: Acts 1: 1-11
Second Reading: Ephesians 1: 17-23
Gospel: Mark 16: 15-20


1) The disciples who completed Puccini’s opera Turandot.   The Italian composer Giacomo Puccini wrote La Boheme, Madama Butterfly and Tosca.   It was during his battle with terminal cancer in 1922 that he began to write Turandot, which many now consider his best work. He worked on the score day and night, despite his friends' advice to rest, and to save his energy. When his sickness worsened, Puccini said to his disciples, 'If I don't finish Turandot, I want you to finish it.' He died in 1924, leaving the work unfinished. His disciples gathered all that was written of Turandot, studied it in great detail, and then proceeded to write the remainder of the opera. The world premier took place in La Scala Opera House in Milan in 1926, and Toscanini, Puccini’s favorite student, conducted it. The opera went beautifully, until Toscanini came to the end of the part written by Puccini. He stopped the music, put down the baton, turned to the audience, and announced, “Thus far the master wrote, but he died.” There was a long pause; no one moved. Then Toscanini picked up the baton, turned to the audience and, with tears in his eyes, announced, “But his disciples finished his work.” The opera closed to thunderous applause, and found a permanent place in the annals of great works. Jesus instructs us in his Ascension message to finish his work of saving mankind by proclaiming His good news in words and deeds.

2)  “Is this thing working?” There is the funny story of the raw army recruit standing at  attention on the drill field. The drill instructor yells, "Forward, march!" And the entire ranks begin to move, all except this one raw recruit. He's still standing there at attention. So the drill instructor strolls over to him and yells in his right ear, "Is this thing          working?"          "Sir,          yes,          sir!"          The          recruit          yells. Then the drill instructor walks around to the other ear and yells, "Is this thing working?" "Sir, yes, sir!" The soldier says. "Then why didn't you march when I gave the order?" "Sir, I didn't hear you call my name." Some of us are like that soldier, standing around waiting for God to call our names. But the great commission given by Jesus on the day of his Ascension is a blanket order. It has everyone's name on it. And you can be sure that the man in charge says, "Go! Make disciples! Teach!” It is your mission and my mission.

3) "I have no other plan -- it must work." A beautiful old story tells of how Jesus, after his  ascension  into  Heaven,  was  surrounded  by  the  Holy  Angels  who  began  to enquire about his work on earth.   Jesus told them about His birth, life, preaching, death and resurrection, and how he had accomplished the salvation of the world.

The angel Gabriel asked, “Well, now that  you   are   back   in   Heaven,   who   will continue your work on earth?"  Jesus said, "While I was on earth, I gathered a group of people around me who believed in me and loved me.   They will continue to spread the Gospel and carry on the work of the Church.” Gabriel was perplexed. "You mean Peter, who denied you thrice and all the rest who ran away when you were crucified?  You mean to tell us that you left them to carry on your work? And what will you do if this plan doesn't work?"  Jesus said, "I have no other plan -- it must work." Truly, Jesus has no other plan than to depend on the efforts of his followers!

Today’s readings describe the ascension of the Lord Jesus into his heavenly glory after he had promised His disciples his Holy Spirit as their source of heavenly power and  commanded  them  to  bear  witness  to  him  by  their  lives  and  preaching throughout the world.  What we celebrate is Jesus exaltation and the end of his earthly existence as a prelude to the gift of the Spirit.  The ascended Jesus is still with us because of his promise, "I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”  He is with us at all times and in all places, releasing a new energy upon the earth, the energy of the Holy Spirit to preach his Good News of salvation by bearing witness to him.  Hence, todays feast is the celebration of Jesus glory after his suffering and death the glory in which we hope to share.  The Ascension and Pentecost, taken together, mark the beginning of the Church.  The feast of the Ascension tells us that the church must be a community with a mission, guided by God’s Spirit and confident of God’s protection, even facing suffering and death.

The first reading (Acts 1: 1-11), gives an account of the event of Jesus ascension as recorded in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. First, Jesus instructed his apostles to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the baptism by the Holy Spirit so that they might become his witnesses to the ends of the earth by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then a cloud took Jesus from the sight of the disciples, and two heavenly messengers in white garments gave them the assurance of Jesusreturn in glory.

Today's psalm, “God is king of all the earth,” celebrates God's universal kingship. It was originally sung in connection with a cultic procession honoring the Ark of the Covenant. By his Ascension, the risen Lord likewise "mounts his throne" in glory.

 The second reading (Eph 1: 17-23 or 4: 1-13): Paul explains the theological meaning of Jesus exaltation by saying,   "May God enlighten the eyes of our hearts so that we may know the great hope to which we have been called."  Our great hope is that one day we, too,  will  be  ascending  to  heavenly  glory,  provided  we  carry  out  the  mission entrusted to us by the ascending Lord. Our mission is to preach the good news of salvation to the whole world in word and deed. We continue to receive the divine assistance and spiritual  gifts necessary for our  Christian witnessing through the Spirit of the risen and ascended Jesus living within us.

In  today's  gospel  Jesus  gives  his  final  message,  his  final  instructions,  his  final promise, and his final blessing to his apostles. Our mission, as recorded in Mark, Acts and Mathew, is to 1)  proclaim the good news to the whole creation (Mark.16:15). 2)

"Preach the good news and be my witnesses:"  (Acts 1:8). 3) Ma ke  disc ipl es  of  all  n ation s”  (Matthew 28:19).   Completing Jesus mission should be our goal in life,  and the prospect of sharing the ascended Jesus heavenly glory should be the driving force of our lives.

Exegetical Notes

A) The ascension: Each Sunday we profess through the Creed, "He ascended into heaven."     Christ’s  Ascension,  his  return  to  his  Father  with  his  Mission Accomplished,"   was a culmination of God’s divine plan for Christ. Jesus Ascension was the grand finale of all his words and works, done for us and for our salvation. It was a culmination, but not the conclusion. As he is now with God in glory, he is now with us in Spirit: "Lo, I am with you always." The feast of the Ascension celebrates one aspect of the resurrection, namely Jesus exaltation.  He did not wait 40 days to be glorified at God’s right hand. That happened at his resurrection.  The focus of this feast is the heavenly reign of Christ. The Lord would be seated at God’s right hand,” meaning He alone would be in control of the continuing plan of salvation through the Spirit, unrestricted by time, space or culture.  Thus, the Paschal Mystery of Jesus' passion, death, resurrection, ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit form one unbroken reality which is to be understood by faith. This continuing plan of salvation will come to its fulfillment with Christ’s return in glory to pass the Final Judgment on all humanity.

B) The Ascension account: The Biblical accounts of the Ascension focus not so much on the details of the event as on the mission Jesus gave to his disciples.  For example, in the accounts narrated in Luke and Acts, the Ascension took place in Jerusalem.  In Matthew and Mark, on the other hand, the event occurred in Galilee.  All accounts, however, agree that the Ascension took place on a mountain.  In Luke and Acts, the Ascension happened forty days after the Resurrection, a period during which Jesus appeared repeatedly to his followers.  In Matthew and Mark there is no indication of the time period between the Resurrection and the Ascension.  The gospel writers apparently were not aiming at accuracy of historical detail but were more concerned with transmitting Our Lord’s        message.

C)   The   ascension   message:   "Preach   the   good   news   and   be   my   witnesses:" Matthew, Mark and Acts record Jesus last words differently: 1) 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” (Acts 1:8).  2) Go therefore and make
 disc ipl es  of  all  n ation s”  (Matthew 28:19).  3) Go into all the world and proclaim the  good news to the whole creation (Mark.16:15).  All are in agreement that (a) Jesus gave his
disciples a mission of bearing witness to him by preaching and living the good news. They were to tell and re-tell the story of Jesus' life, suffering, death and resurrection. (b) He assured them of the divine assistance of his Holy Spirit in the carrying out of this mission.

D) Christmas and Ascension: The Ascension is most closely related, in meaning, to
Christmas.  In Jesus, the human and the divine become united in the person and life

of one man.   That's Christmas.   At  the  Ascension,  Jesus,  True  God  and  True Man, now risen from the dead, His scarred human flesh glorified, became for all eternity a part of who God is.  It was not only the spirit of Jesus or the divine nature of Jesus that ascended to the Father.  It was the Whole Divine Person of Jesus, His body now-glorified. This was the same body the disciples had touched, a body that had eaten  and drunk  with  them,  a  real,  physical,  but  gloriously restored  body, bearing the marks of nails and a spear.  This Risen Jesus is the One Who ascended and, now and forever, is a living, participating part of God. The Ascension, along with the Incarnation, is here to tell us that it is a good thing to be a human being; indeed it is a wonderful and an important and a holy thing to be a human being.  It is such an important thing  that  God did it.   Even more, the  fullness of  God now includes what it means to be a human being.

Life Messages

1) We need to be proclaimers and evangelizers: In today's gospel, Jesus gives his mission to all believers: "Go out to the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”  This mission is not  given to a  select few but  to all believers. To be a Christian is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer. There is a difference between preaching and proclaiming. We preach with words but we proclaim with our lives.” As we celebrate the Lord’s return to His Father in heaven His Ascension -- we are being commissioned to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of life and love, of hope and peace, by the witness of our lives. On this day of hope, encouragement and commissioning, let us renew our commitment to be true disciples everywhere we go, beginning with our family and our parish, "living in a manner worthy of the call [we] have received.”

2) We need to live a life of Christian joy in the presence of the ascended Lord. According to Luke, the disciples "returned to Jerusalem with great joy." Apparently Jesus' exaltation and final blessing gave them, as it gives us, the assurance that, though absent, he is still present, present even in the pain and sorrow we undergo. That is why St. Augustine assures us, “Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?' and when he said: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food.’ While in heaven he is also with us; and while on earth we are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love."

3) We have a teaching mission:  Jesus taught us lessons of faith, hope, forgiveness, mercy, redemption and love.  We cannot put these lessons on a shelf and ignore them.  They stand before us in the person of Jesus.  Although no longer visibly present in the world, He is present in his words. We must make his words real in our lives and in the lives of others. Christianity was meant to be a faith in which Jesus followers would help and care for others, just as Jesus had done.   But the spreading  of  the  Good  News  to  all  nations  is  not  a  goal  that  can  be  attained by human might and craft.  This is why Jesus promises to empower his messengers with His abiding presence and that of the Holy Spirit.   The challenge of sharing the

Good  News  with  all  mankind  should, therefore, begin with our admission that we have often been arrogant and overbearing.  We must learn to be humble and let the Holy Spirit lead the way.

4) The ascended Jesus is our source of strength and encouragement: Perhaps some of the nagging doubts which inevitably accompany the journey of faith could be lessened by our meditating on the Ascension and its implications. When we are too far from faith to pray on our own, let us remember that we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous, praying for us. When the trials of life feel too heavy to bear, we must remember that Christ will come again in glory, the same glory in which he arose from the tomb, the same glory in which he ascended, and the same glory in which he currently abides. Though our limited perception might find him absent, he is fully present, participating in every moment of our lives. By His ascension, Christ has not deserted us but has made it possible for his Spirit to enter all times and places. In this way it is possible for each of us to be transformed by  the  power  of  the  Spirit  into  agents  or  instruments  of  Christ.  We  become enlivened with his Spirit. Our actions become animated in a new way by the Spirit of the God we love and serve. We have become Christs in the world.


# 1: The ascension mission to preach the gospel:  After attending a convention led by Billy Graham a woman wrote to him. Dear Sir, I feel that God is calling me to preach the gospel. But the trouble is that I have twelve children. What shall I do?” The televangelist replied: Dear Madam, I am delighted to hear that God has called you to preach the Gospel. I am even more delighted to hear that He has already provided you with a congregation in your own home.”

# 2: Ascension walk-out: There was a long-winded pastor who preached salvation history from Genesis to Revelation in every sermon. On the feast of Ascension as he reached Isaiah, he remarked that the prophet said nothing about the ascension of Our Lord. He asked his audience, “What shall we do with him? One old man in the front seat said, “He can have my seat, Father, I am leaving.”

# 3: And after death ascend or descend? At the end of school what do you want to do?  I want to do my Senior Certificate. After your Senior Certificate what do you want  to  do? -  I  want  to  go  to  college. After  college  what  do  you want  to  do?
- I want to get a job. Then what do you want to do? - I want to make big money. What  do  you  want  to  do  after  making  money?  -  I  want  to  build  a  big  house. After that what do you intend to do? - I want to get married. What will you do after getting married? - I will have a family. What will you do after having a family? - I will retire. What do you want to do after you retire? - I want to take a rest. What will you do after taking a rest? - I don’t know. Will you die? - Oh yes, I will die too. What will happen after death? I am not sure!

Additional Anecdotes

1) The Unfinished Painting: Leonardo da Vinci had started to work on a large canvas in his studio.  For a while he worked at it choosing the subject, planning the perspective, sketching the outline, applying the colors, with his own inimitable genius.  Then suddenly he stopped working on it.  Summoning one of his talented students, the master invited him to complete the work.   The horrified student protested that he was both unworthy and unable to complete the great painting which his master had begun.  But da Vinci silenced him.  "Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?"  Jesus our Master began to spread the Good News two thousand years ago, by what he said and did, and supremely by what he suffered. He illustrated his message, and he has left us to finish the picture.  Will his life not inspire us to finish the picture? This is the message of the Ascension (John Rose in John's Sunday Homilies).

2) Solar Power: One of the national coordinators of Sun Day held early in May every year is Denis Hayes. He worked as researcher at a Washington D.C. think-tank’ and has written a book on solar energy entitled Rays of Hope: The Transition to a Post- Petroleum World. Hayes claims that we are at the crossroads of making a critical choice for mankind the choice between going solar or going nuclear for a power source. Hayes opts for the sun because it is “the world’s only inexhaustible, predictable, egalitarian, non-polluting, safe, terrorist-resistant and free energy source.” We’ve already learned to use the power of the sun to grow food, make wine and operate greenhouses. All we need to do is develop better technology to harness solar energy to heat houses, drive our cars and run our industry. People like Hayes are looking at the sky with its sun as the main source of our future energy supply. Today we turn our attention to the sky for another reason to commemorate our Lord’s Ascension into heaven. In the first reading, from Acts, Jesus makes a promise: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you.” That Spirit is the power source that can give us all the energy we need to live our lives to the full. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds’)

3) Passing the Baton: The critical moment in a relay race is the passing of the baton from one runner to another. More relays are won or lost at that moment than at any other. The feast of the ascension might be compared to the passing of the baton in a relay race. On this day over 2,000 years ago, Jesus passed the baton of responsibility for the Kingdom of God to his followers. Jesus commissioned them to complete the work he had begun. Practically, what does this mean? How do you and I, in the 20th century, carry out Jesus’ commission to be his witnesses to the world and his teachers to the nations? There are as many ways to do this as there are Christians. We can do what two 25-year-old university graduates did recently. After completing their degrees, one from Georgetown and the other from Marquette, they entered the Seminary. We can do what Albert Schweitzer did. At the age of 30 he abandoned his

music career in Europe to study medicine and   became   a   missionary   doctor   in Africa. We can do what the baseball coach of Spring Hill College, Alabama, did a few years back. At the age of 35 he resigned his position and began his studies for the priesthood.
[Mark      Link      in      Sunday      Homilies      (quoted      in      Net      for      Life)]

4) Great commissions: Actually there have been many persons given exciting commissions in their lifetimes. There was Michelangelo's commission to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Sir Christopher Wren's commission to build St. Paul's Cathedral in London, Walter Reed's assignment to stop yellow fever at the "Big Ditch" in Panama, Chamberlain's orders to stop the Confederates at Little Roundtop in  Gettysburg  and most  recently  the  mission of  the  U.S.  Navy  Seals to  get  the terrorist master-mind, Bin Laden, dead or alive. But I tell you, in my life and yours, there is an even greater commission. It is found here in Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus Christ turns to his disciples and says, Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

5) "Torpedo evangelism." Rebecca Pippert, the author of Out of the Salt Shaker: Into the World, tells of a time she was sitting in her car at a traffic light with her window rolled down. As the light turned green a car drove by and its occupant threw something into her car hitting her on the cheek. It didn't hurt but she was so startled that she pulled over immediately. When she unrolled the paper, she discovered it was a gospel tract. She says she was the apparent victim of what she refers to as "torpedo evangelism." I'm sure the torpedoer meant well. At least I hope so, but he or she did the wrong thing for the right reason in the wrong way. We can engage people in conversation about their faith and their relationship with God in a non- judgmental manner. We can encourage. We can invite. We can offer counsel. But we leave the hard work, the heart work, up to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. You see, we are not on some sort of spiritual mugging mission.

6) Reaching Peak Performance: One of the superstars in that professional speakerscircuit is a man named Charles Garfield. He is a psychologist from San Francisco. He makes up to 150 speeches a year, he says. Actually, if the truth were known, he makes one speech 150 times. He began his career as a mathematician for NASA. He was part of the Apollo Project that put a man on the moon. He left NASA to study psychology. He became interested in what motivates people to reach their highest possible achievement in this life. He went to Berkeley and got a PhD in psychology. Then he interviewed 1,500 people on how they achieved what he called "peak performance." He published that result in a book, and then he started on the lecture circuit. He said the one thing that all peak performers have in common is a sense of mission. "What you need in this life if you want to have fulfillment is a sense of mission." It is giving yourself to something that is greater than yourself. That is what a mission is. Our mission is found at the conclusion of Matthew's gospel: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the

end of the age." Not only does the Church  have a mission to perform in this world, but everybody in the Church is supposed to have a part in performing that mission.

7) “They don't drink no water." The chief warrant officer was brought before the provost marshal and asked if he had received the general's order. "Yes, Sir." "Then why didn't you comply?" roared the provost.

"Well, Sir, I didn't think it applied to us." "And why not?"

"Because, Sir, when my men go to town, they don't drink no water."[Robert L. Jamison, "Humor in Uniform," Laughter, the Best Medicine, (New York: Berkley Books,

1981), p. 29.] Fortunately, those men who first heard the ascending Lord's orders did not look for ways to get around them but did what they told.

8) Nietchze and Hitler: Nietchze, the German philosopher, said, "God is dead and the stench of his corpse is all across Europe." He advocated humanism and proposed the development of a "superman" of Aryan heritage, protected by selective breeding and superior education. The Nazi Party picked up his idea, and men like Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Mengle, Himmler, and Rommel set about building such a society in Germany's Third Reich. But it all ended with bullets and bombs, chaos and suffering such as the world has seldom seen. The Christian faith has no less a plan. But it involves a higher order. Hitler would have renewed man by his own efforts. We seek to renew the human race by the work of God. Our mission as given by the ascending Jesus is not to make converts or church members, but baptized, obedient   disciples!

9) Three-step baptism:  In one of the great cathedrals of Europe there is a baptistery that tells the story. The water flows through it reminding us that Jesus says he is the living water. To be baptized, a person walks down three steps, each one marked by a word:  the  world,  the  flesh,  and  the  devil.  Descending  the  steps  the  convert  is plunged beneath the water to die to sin and then raised from the depths to newness of life in Christ. To leave the baptistery now he must climb three steps, each one marked by a word: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So it is that a new creature is born, a new breed of man, a citizen of a new kingdom, a breed apart. Dead to sin, he is alive to God and is sent forth to grow to love and to give light to a lost, dying world. He doesn't do it alone. He does it in the Church, in little communities. In these, people demonstrate, in their way of being together, God's eternal kingdom come upon them. It took Michelangelo over ten years to paint the Sistine Chapel. Our missionary commission lasts until the job gets done, until life is over, "until the close of the age."

10) “Alter your course 10 degrees north.” Have you hear

Sermons for Easter 7 and Ascension:

 John 17:6-19 and Luke 24:49-53 - The Meaning of Life

John 17:6-19 and Luke 24:49-53 - "Don't Get Into Things!" - by Leonard Sweet

In Act 5 scene 5 of Shakespeare's Macbeth, the character Macbeth has heard that the queen is dead and he knows his own death is imminent. At this time he delivers his famous soliloquy:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow
creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, Out, brief candle
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Is Macbeth right? Is life nothing but a shadow having no substance, no meaning? Writers and philosophers since recorded time have tried to answer the question. I don't think any of them have been successful in answering the question to everyone's satisfaction. Someone once said that "Trying to speak about the ultimate reality is like sending a kiss through a messenger." I understand their point: Something of its truth is lost in the translation.

What is the meaning of life? A philosophical question to be sure but this is not only the philosopher's question. It is a genuinely human question and therefore a question that we all ask. It might be a question that is asked in despair or hope, out of cynicism, or out of sincere curiosity and a deep desire to have goals and guidance in life. However we raise the question about the meaning of life, it is our most basic and fundamental question.

1. He Prays for Our Protection from the World.

2. He Prays That We Might Know God.

"Don't get into things!"

 How many times did you hear that directive as a kid. Mom had to run to the store for a minute or Dad was tied up on a project in the garage. Knowing what children will do when left to their own devices, the last ditch effort of "out-of-sight" parenting is the generic and ultimately unenforceable order - "Don't get into things!"

 Like that ever stopped kids from burrowing into the back of closets as Christmas closed in. Like that ever kept the curious chemist from testing things like putting Mentos in soda bottles or trying to melt chocolate chunks into "hot chocolate." Being empowered by freedom coupled with being unsupervised makes it far too tempting for any and all of us to "get into things."

 Jesus' resurrection was the miraculous "happy ending" his disciples had never imagined possible. His physical presence in their midst, eating and talking with them, filled them with wonder and confused joy. Then his "opening up the Scriptures" opened their blurry eyes to read God's drama of salvation, of which they were now a part. Receiving Jesus' blessing and witnessing his ascension finally brought these disciples to a place of faith that they had never before inhabited. They were first-hand believers in the resurrection. They took to heart his promise of the gift of the Spirit. Their faith went almost overnight from being unhinged to being untinged and untroubled by doubt...


 All Shall Be Well

 It was Julian of Norwich who wrote those inspired words that 'all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.' They are words that are particularly poignant tonight because they sum up the transformation in the followers of Jesus that we celebrate on Ascension Day, for on this day strange, as it may seem we celebrate Christ's leaving his disciples.

But his leaving them is not a somber occasion. It is full of joy and hope and reminds us how their lives had changed, of how they had come to trust in God's ultimate purpose for them and believe that all will indeed be well because Christ will always be with them.

Matthew Peat, All Will Be Well

Don't You Believe in Shoes?

 There is a story by Hugh Price Hughes titled, "The City of Everywhere." In this story a man arrives in a city one cold morning. As he gets off the train, he sees that the station is like any other station except for one thing everyone is barefoot. No one wears shoes.

 He notices a barefoot cab driver. "Pardon me," he asks the driver, "I was just wondering why you don't wear shoes. Don't you believe in shoes?"

 "Sure we do," says the driver.

"Why don't you wear them?" asks the man.

"Ah, that's the question," the driver replies. "Why don't we wear shoes? Why don't we?"

 At the hotel it is the same. The clerk, bell boys, everybody is barefoot. In the coffee shop he notices a nice looking gentleman at a table opposite him. He says, "I notice you aren't wearing any shoes. I wonder why? Don't you know about shoes?"

 The man replies, "Of course I know about shoes."

"Then why don't you wear them?" asks the stranger.

"Ah, that's the question," says the man. "Why don't we? Why don't we?"

 After breakfast he walks out on the street in the snow but every person he sees is barefoot. He asks another man about it, and points out how shoes protect the feet from cold. The man says, "We know about shoes. See that building yonder? That is a shoe manufacturing plant. We are proud of that plant and every week we gather there to hear the man in charge tell about shoes and how wonderful they are."

 "Then why don't you wear shoes?" asks the stranger.

"Ah, that's the question," says the man.

 Dr. Robert E. Goodrich told this story in his book, What's It All About? Then he asks, "Don't we believe in prayer? Don't we know what prayer could mean to our lives? . . . Of course we do; we know about prayer. Then, why don't we pray? Ah, that's the question. Why don't we pray? . . . Why don't we?"

 Robert E. Goodrich, What's It All About, adapted by King Duncan


 The Joy of Living New Life Is Beginning

 The feast of the Ascension reminds us of two facts: one is the resurrection means we are deprived of the physical presence of Jesus as he was known in history to his disciples; the other fact is the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Christ, is able to make him known and present to far greater numbers at the same time than would be possible in human form. So the disciples are being told, we are being told, while this is the end of one significant experience, it is the beginning of another one. The historical Jesus is no longer present; the cosmic Christ has received all authority and will be with us until the close of time. (Matthew 28: 18-20) Our Easter celebration is coming to an end; the joy of living the new life in Christ is still just beginning.

Kendall K McCabe and Michael L. Sherer, Path of the Phoenix, CSS Publishing Company

 What Makes Ultimate Faith Possible

I suspect that what makes ultimate entrustment possible is all the little entrustments that we learn to make all along the way. We hope wisdom is cumulative, and the more we learn to entrust in matters small, the more graceful we become in our ultimate entrustments.

 Our goal, I believe, is to come to that point where we can say with Walt Whitman:

 My terminus near,
The clouds already closing in upon me,
The voyage balk'd --

the course disputed, lost,
I yield my ships to Thee ...

My hands, my limbs grow nerveless;
My brain feels rack'd, bewildered;
Let the old timbers part -- I will not part!
I will cling fast to Thee, O God,
though the waves buffet me;
Thee, Thee, at least, I know.

 Arguably, entrustment (or faith, if you prefer) is the most important resource we can develop. Without it, we would all hole up somewhere, with our only excursions beyond being those of absolute necessity. The obverse dimension of this is, of course, the cultivation of trust-worthiness. It is as our entrustment is vindicated that we develop the capacity for more of it.

 I don't know who taught you to swim, if ever you learned, but I do know that you would not have learned to survive in the water if there weren't a teacher present whom you trusted to make the learning environment a wholly safe one for you.

I don't know who taught you to ride your first two-wheel bicycle, but I do know that in all likelihood you would not have learned were it not for that trustworthy other who ran alongside of you, as you wobbled from side to side, on that day when the training wheels were first removed.

 A child would not be able to take the first step onto a school bus and leave Mom and Dad behind were it not for the fact that, preceding the first school bus ride, there were firmly in place a series of successfully completed developmental tasks, reflective of the child's experience that others in her life have proved themselves trustworthy.

 Ironically, this reliance on the trustworthiness of others eventually leads to the ability to trust ourselves -- our little inside voices, senses, and intuition. We can swim. We can ride the bike. We can go off to unfamiliar territory, establish ourselves, and be successful. Louise Kaplan has written beautifully about this process:

 "... we manage to hold together when the world lets us down. Although we feel temporarily abandoned and vulnerable, constancy prevails. We retain enough of a sense of our personal worth and the worth of others eventually to convert disenchantment and disappointment into challenge. Constancy enables us to bend with the shifting winds and still remain rooted to the earth that nourishes us."

 Robert A. Noblett, Sermons for Sundays in Lent and Easter, CSS Publishing Company


Every Link of the Chain

 Idlers of a seacoast town watched the village smith day after day as he painstakingly wrought every link of a great chain he was forging. Behind his back they scoffed at such care being taken on such an ordinary thing as a chain. But the old craftsman worked on, ignoring them as if he had not heard them at all.

Eventually the chain was attached to a great anchor on the deck of an ocean vessel. For months it was never put to use. But one day the vessel was disabled by a breakdown in its steering apparatus while nearing the coast in a storm. Only a secure anchorage could prevent the vessel from being driven onto the rocky coast. Thus the fate of the ship and hundreds of passengers depended on the strength of that chain. No one knew of the care and skill that had been lavished on each link of that chain by an obscure smith who was only doing his best. The chain held, and the ship, its passengers and its crew were saved. A man from a "different world" had saved the day.

 Keith Wagner, In a Different World


 A Church Is a Family

 Charles E. Jefferson once described the difference between an audience and a church. He said, "An audience is a crowd. A church is a family. An audience is a gathering. A church is a fellowship. An audience is a collection. A church is an organism. An audience is a heap of stones. A church is a temple." And he concludes, "Preachers are ordained not to attract an audience, but to build a church." I hope that everyone in this room understands that critical difference. If the Lion's club or the Kiwanis club is torn with dissension, it is a shame. But when the church of Jesus Christ is in turmoil, it is a tragedy. Christ depends on us.

 King Duncan,


 In Light of His Departure

 Quite often in our lives there come periods of time when we are separated from loved ones. Often just before the separation, we convey vital information to them essential for their well-being. It is because of our deep concern for them; we omit the small talk and focus on the priorities in the few final minutes of our time together.

 Consider what a husband would say before he departs on a two-week business trip, or a mother before she allows her child to play in the water, or a father before he drops his son off at college for the first time.

 Jesus is about to depart from His disciples in a physical way via the cross. He has already prepared them in the Upper Room discourse. Now as He goes before the Father in prayer in Chapter 17, He identifies six priorities that He wants for His followers. I cannot think of another portion of Scripture that better conveys the heart of our Savior. This is an intimate pipeline into the thoughts of Jesus. These are His main concerns in light of His departure. Though specifically spoken to those He was presently leaving behind, we can generally say these are the utmost desires for His church.

 Randy Smith, Jesus Prays for His Disciples

 Truly Accepting God's Teaching

 If your kids see you putting other things ahead of God, they will become discouraged and disillusioned, like a young Jewish boy who once lived in Germany.

 His father was a successful merchant, and the family practiced their Jewish faith. But then they moved to another German city, and the boy's father announced that they would no longer attend synagogue. They were going to join the Lutheran church.

 The boy was very surprised and asked his father why the family was joining the Lutheran church. His father's answer was something like, "For business reasons. There are so many Lutherans in this town that I can make good business contacts at the Lutheran church. It will be good for business."

 That boy, who had a deep interest in religion, became so disillusioned with his father that something died within him. He said to himself, 'My father has no real convictions." The incident helped to turn him against religion with a vengeance...