This past week the Church recognized Ascension Day, the day when Jesus went to Heaven as described in Acts 1. I can’t imagine what it was like for them to watch Jesus rise into the sky! We’re not quite at jet pack technology for everyone, but we see it in movies, so we have some idea what it looked like, but to think about it happening in real life, let alone to someone we actually knew, and then to find out that they weren’t coming back?! It was a big change for the Apostles and I’m sure they questioned why Jesus would only come to visit and then leave, so today I want to briefly address those two topics.
Let’s talk first about change. Change is part of our lives like death and taxes. Something is always changing whether it’s the rising and setting of the sun or the seasons or how the world around us works. Some people thrive on change, but many are resistant because they’ve had bad experiences in the past or can’t imagine that the change could be a good thing. The best thing to do is accept change as fact and part of our reality, as this will give us the attitude and openness to deal with the changes that come our way. Change can be scary, but when we’re busy making lists of things that excite us about the change rather than our fears, change becomes an opportunity rather than problem.
The second part of the Ascension is the fact that Jesus left. Everyone focuses on this when the incredible thing is actually that He came in the first place at all. For 30 years Jesus was on the Earth, that’s a very small part of the thousands of years the earth has existed, which means the chances of you being born when Jesus was not on Earth are much better than those that you were. So what does Jesus’ life and Ascension teach us? First, that He existed. There are lots of testimonials of people who say Jesus was here. It’s an important touchpoint for us when we doubt that God exists somewhere somehow up there; that there’s an actual person/being we can believe in that people have seen and interacted with. Second, it says that Jesus’ work on Earth wasn’t the whole point of His visit. If Jesus came to Earth to do lots of great stuff, you would think He would stick around longer, maybe following early Biblical life terms of 600+ years.
So where does that leave us today? It leaves us with the knowledge that Jesus exists, that He left us because He trusts us to continue His work, and that He is present with us today in spirit like He was before He spent 30 odd years on Earth. For whatever reason God decided that the time of Jesus’ Ascension was not to be the end of the world, but would be some undetermined 2000+ years in the future. Jesus’ Ascension wasn’t the end of the story, there’s still time for a reason, a reason that each of us are part of because we each have something to contribute to the world. Jesus may have gone but you are still here, do you know your purpose?