The Ascension of the Lord - Worth the Wait

We are not good at waiting. Most of the time we want quick results and are frustrated when they are long-coming. This has become especially apparent to us during these past couple of months. We have suddenly become accustomed to waiting on lines at the supermarket, waiting for daily news briefings, waiting for isolation to end, lockdowns to be lifted and the economy to be restarted. Just being able to step outside into the fresh air and embrace someone is something we long for. And we are particularly frustrated and tired of trying to understand “church” and Eucharist in a entirely new and dynamic way.

ascension 2020A global pandemic can do this. It can make or break our spirits - and make us wonder whether going back to “the way things were” is actually the smartest thing to do. Waiting is not an activity that we do well. And why? Because it means someone else or some other power or force of nature is in control of our world, not us. And being out of control and subject to others reminds us of our frailty and our vulnerability.

During these weeks between Easter and Pentecost we have had a chance to reflect on the difference that Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension make on our lives. We have read from the Book of Acts during these weeks and have seen how the early church struggled and survived during its first critical days. This early Christian community was mission-minded, wanting to go out immediately to tell others the good news. But Acts begins with a strange message by the risen Christ to his disciples. Just before ascending to his Father He tells them to wait.

This had to be another upheaval of emotions for the disciples. They had just gone through some tough times: seeing their Lord and Master betrayed, arrested and executed, bringing them to the edge of despair. They had heard from others that He indeed had risen, but still they doubted and feared, and finally experienced His risen presence for themselves in utter joy. They felt that they were now ready to get on with the business of proclaiming the Good News. Instead they are told to wait for coming of the Spirit - then they will know how and where to be true witnesses of the Gospel message.

In reality, they weren't yet ready to go off spreading the news of his resurrection. They were a small, fearful community that had no power on its own. As the Gospels remind us, these first followers of Jesus always had a tendency to get his message all wrong. What's more, when things got tough, they locked themselves in the upper room and went into hiding.

We are not so different from them at all – especially now.

The disciples are told - as are we - to stop a moment, take a breath, and wait for God' promise to be fulfilled. And it's a difficult lesson to learn that this will come at God's timing, not our own. The Risen Lord wants them to break free of their limited view, their prejudices and tendency to misinterpret the meaning of his life. They will, he says, have to be, "my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." But they will need help... so they must acknowledge their dependence on God and wait for Him to pour out that help upon them. Waiting on the Spirit is a reversal of our usual mode of operating.

We, too, are to be witnesses to Jesus by the integrity of our lives and the commitment to his Gospel. And, like the first disciples, we need to wait for the gift of the Spirit who sustains us when the going gets rough.

Jesus prepared his disciples for his departure. But as we celebrate the Ascension and anticipate the gift of the Spirit on Pentecost, Jesus' words take on an additional meaning.

In the awareness of our own need, we are primed for Pentecost, when we will be renewed in the Spirit, who energizes us once more to live a life based on the truth of Jesus - who he is for us and who he is for the world - and the results can be far more powerful than we could ever imagine.

It’s worth the wait.