St. Philip Lutheran Church, Glenview
The Ascension of Our Lord
May 29, 2022
Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53
In the name of the One, Holy, and Living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
What do we do now?
What do we do now?
Have you asked yourself this question over the past week?
I feel as though I’ve asked myself that question almost constantly over the past 6 or so years.
When 19 children and 2 adults are killed in a senseless act of gun violence…what do we do now?
When a beloved family member has a sudden health crisis and dies at the age of 45, what do we do now?
When more than four thousand people have been killed in Ukraine and Russia’s invasion has caused a refugee crisis with ripple effects across the globe, what do we do now?
When so many of the the things about our beloved church communities have changed and all we want to happen is for things to go back to the way they used to be, what do we do now?
What do we do now, Jesus?
When are you going to change things?
Is NOW when you are going to restore the kingdom to Israel?
Is NOW the time when you’re going to put things right- like the way they used to be before everything fell apart?
What do we do now?
Here today, on Pfingsten Road in Glenview, we might well find ourselves in the same position as those Jesus followers in our reading from Acts.
After all, this is lectionary year C and we’ve been reading through Luke’s gospel – the “first book” that Luke (who we understand to be the writer of Acts) refers to. We’ve been with Jesus teaching in the synagogue – “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release for capitves, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
We’ve seen Jesus transfigured before us on the mountain – “this is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"
We’ve walked with Jesus – sometimes, like Peter, denying him – through his suffering and death – dismayed, brokenhearted and confused – “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And at the lowest point of our sorrow- the sweet, wondrous, life-affirming and transforming resurrection. We’ve shouted alleluia – the Risen Christ has come among us – “peace be with you” – and our hearts burned with in us as he opened to us the Scriptures. When this living miracle – this resurrected Jesus came among us, we finally felt like everything was going to be okay. That all we had been through finally had meaning. That Jesus HAD set everything right.
And then – just like that….he’s gone – taken up into heaven in a cloud. Instead of our hearts burning within us they are once again broken. Jesus is gone. What do we do now?
I learned a new-to-me Yiddish word this week. Yiddish, of course, is a language originally spoken by Ashkenazi Jews that is a German dialect combining bits of Hebrew words and other languages. The word is zebrokhnkayt, And tzebrokhnkayt is a Yiddish word for brokenhearteness – but the kind of brokenheartedness that gives strength in healing.
It is this kind of brokenheartedness that I imagine those Jesus followers might have had at Christ’s Ascension, and it is this kind of brokenheartedness that I believe is our vocation- our call – here and now. Are we brokenhearted because of the troubles and sufferings of this world? Yes. Are Jesus’s followers brokenhearted because he seems to have left them? Yes. But the quality of this brokenheartedness is is one of openness – openness to God’s – to the Holy Spirit’s power to work in and through us to strengthen us for action.
Hear these words of Jesus spoken before his Ascension: “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.”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.”
The point of the Ascension is not so much Jesus’s being lifted up into heaven – as spectacular as it must’ve been and as theologically important as it is. Jesus’s body ascends into heaven but that doesn’t mean that Christ’s body has vanished from the earth – no. It means that we are now to be Christ’s body. Martin Luther
speaks of Christ’s ubiquity- that Christ ascends not only into heaven, but into the meal we share at this table, and into US- his very body. In Jesus’s Ascenion we find confirmation of our vocation – of who we are called to be – of who we ARE – and what we are called to do. For indeed the Holy Spirit will come upon us, and with POWER - strengthening us to do the same work of healing, comforting, rebuilding, consoling, advocating for the most vulnerable, and trampling down all the death-dealing powers of this world that Jesus did. Jesus entrusts US – even with our not so great track record – with the responsibility to do his work in the world. And thank God we aren’t expected to do that of our own power- as if we actually could – no, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are lavished upon us, making us ever more fully the body of Christ and strengthening us to do God’s work in the world.
I can’t let an Ascension celebration pass by without sharing a favorite passage from one of my most beloved saints – Teresa of Avila. This passage speaks powerfully of the vocation that is ours in our risen and ascended Lord:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours
are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet
with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all
the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his
body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
So, what do we do now?
People of St. Philip, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? We’ve got work to do. Let’s go!