May 20, 2012
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
Given the fullness of today’s service, I joked with Pastor Tom that I have three minutes for the sermon. This will give those of you who like looking at your watches an opportunity to see if I make it or not.
The opening of Acts is significant for several reasons. It lets us know that this is Luke 2.0, as it is written to Theophilus. Now, we do not know if Theophilus is the name of a particular person, or a nickname, or a title. It is Greek and it means “Lover of God,” or “One whom God loves.” In other words, we who love God, we whom God loves, can read both Luke and Acts as having been written to us.
Jesus gives his followers instructions throughout the time between his resurrection and his ascension. He tells them to stay where they are, to wait upon the Holy Spirit.
And when he is finished teaching them, his is lifted up and he disappears in a cloud. There is something here beyond the power of flight that Luke is trying to tell us. The one who is the Word made flesh, the one who brings God to us in human form, now takes humanity, and what it is like to be human, back to God. What it means to know weakness, and to be finite, and to live and love and die as a human, all of the things that make us who we are, are now lifted to God.
I find this an amazing image. That Jesus, the one who knows what it is like to be God, but submits to being human, now takes what it is like to be human, and lifts that up to God.
I believe this has something to do with how we pray. When we speak to God about our frailty, our limitedness, our hurt, our fears, God understands us not simply as our creator, but as one who has suffered them as well.
The other moment I want us to pay attention to echoes the messengers at the empty tomb:
And while they were gazing into heaven as he went,
behold, two men stood by them in white robes,
and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?
This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven,
will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
I believe they are saying, quit being so worried about heaven. That’s God’s concern. Staring up into the sky distracts us from where our work is: here and now, taking care of our neighbors.
Or put it another way, Jesus is coming back the same way he went; you aren’t going to make it happen any quicker by standing here gawking skywards! In the meantime, he didn’t teach you how to stand around. He taught you how to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, preach good news to the poor and to the poor in spirit.
Praise and worship are necessary. They refill our hearts; they feed our souls. But the work of faith is then found out there, in our world of neighbors.
And when we do the work of faith, and we get tired, or frustrated, or hungry ourselves, or burned out, well, God now knows what this feels like. Personally.
Thanks be to God.