|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on May 12, 2021 at 3:25 PM|
Famous last words are usually uttered on one’s deathbed. But not for Jesus. His famous last words happen weeks after his death and resurrection.
Today is the Feast of the Ascension. Luke is the Gospel writer who gave us the tradition that Jesus ascended to heaven following his time on earth. According to Luke’s Gospel and its sequel, The Acts of the Apostles, forty days after Easter, Jesus says his final farewell to his disciples and heads home to his Father. But before he goes, he uses the opportunity to offer one last bit of teaching, a charge to all of us who follow him as our Lord. His disciples are wondering about the plan, understandably so. They probably want to feel like they have some semblance of control over things as their beloved teacher and friend departs. I can relate. But rather than give them a schedule, Jesus reminds them that they are not in control and aren’t privy to the plan. He directs them away from focusing on timing and instead speaks to them about place. He says:
“It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” (Acts 1:7-8)
The last words Jesus says to his apostles are about the where of God’s mission, not the when. Jesus specifies that ministry is to take place locally (Jerusalem), in surrounding areas (Judea), in places that are uncomfortable (Samaria) and worldwide (ends of the earth). Because of this verse, my theology of mission is that God calls us to serve first in our own "Jerusalem" or local context, and also calls us to go beyond what is familiar and comfortable to be witnesses to God’s love.
The Feast of the Ascension is a day to ponder how we are doing in responding to Jesus’s parting words to us. Are we sharing God’s love in word and deed locally—at church and in our own neighborhoods and towns? Are we also stretching to share God’s love beyond the places that are familiar and comfortable for us? And finally, are we letting go of our need to be in control of the plan? After all, God’s in charge of the timing. Our task is simply to “do the work we’ve been given to do” to paraphrase the Prayer Book (page 366), and trust that God’s purposes are being worked out in God’s good time.
Yours in Christ,