5/23/04 , Ascension Sunday, Year C

“Between Two Worlds”
Luke 24: 44-53; Acts 1: 6-11

he happiest decision my mother ever made was to go back to teaching. She had stayed home with my brother and me, but when I was about nine years old she was free to soar. She was on tiptoes as she entered a first grade classroom. She picked out and purchased her first car, a 1953, four tones, Buick, Special with the three fake exhaust holes in the side of the front fenders. She was the same person but was liberated to a new level of existence.    

In today's story of the Ascension we find we find Jesus transitioning into another level.  He has completed the plan for redemption through his passion on the cross and has been resurrected from the dead. He has appeared to his followers many times during the forty days since the first Easter, however there was one more thing that he needed to do in order to complete his assignment on earth; he needed to leave.

Much of his forty days had been spent teaching his followers, helping them to understand a radically new manifestation of God on earth. Jesus kept telling them to wait in Jerusalem on the coming of the Holy Spirit; but understandably, his disciples seemed reluctant to give him up again so soon after his resurrection. Most seemed to be beginning to catch on that through faith in him they too would live beyond death. Yet, they would not grasp the importance of the coming of God into their hearts as the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, until after they had experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit into their hearts. So, Jesus kept telling them to wait in Jerusalem , to keep meeting together, until the Holy Spirit had come. They were doubtful concerning this unknown new relationship between them and God and probably would have liked to continue as they were. But God had greater things in store for them.

Someone has compared their entering this new dispensation of the presence of the Spirit of God in hearts to the screaming reluctance that babies seem to have at birth. They have been comfortable and protected in a safe place for months. They have had all they needed and have no concept of this new world out on their own. So, they scream loudly in what seems like protest, but even their crying is a part of God's plan to clear out, and start up their lungs. We might also draw an analogy to our natural fear of death as a part of God's plan for eternal life. We are perfectly happy where we are. Well, maybe not perfectly happy, but we have learned to cope.

Our annual family week at the beach has been so wonderful for these many years that I have jokingly said that if I could get a guarantee of an eternity on the Atlantic beach that I would sign up. There is a mystery about heaven, but it is going to be so wonderful that we can only imagining.

At age ninety-four in her last conversation on earth, Mother shared her slight reluctance to be transitioned from this world into the next. It is only natural to feel some fear. However, realizing her age and that there was little hope of physical recovery; she was at the same time anticipating her new life in Glory. I asked her if she remembered her '53 Buick and her face lit up. She asked what had happened to her 1958 model which had the tall fish fins on the back, and I reminded her that she had traded for several others since the. I told her that her most recent Buick was parked in a parking lot nearby and was ready for her. I think she knew that I was talking about a celestial model.

As so, we find Jesus accepting his transition back to the right hand of the Father sitting on the throne. He knew that the age of the Holy Spirit would not be possible if he held on to his earthly life, although he must have been somewhat sad to move on. In another way of understanding the triune nature of God, Jesus would actually return to earth again as the Holy Spirit, for Jesus was God and; and thus, Jesus was indeed the Holy Spirit. In Trinitarian language we refer to God the Father in Heaven, Jesus Christ, the Son seated on his right hand, and the Holy Spirit in today's world as God's presence in our lives.

So we find Jesus caught between two worlds: This transitory, temporary life on earth, and the next level which will be permanent in heaven.

It was only natural that when Jesus was ascending bodily into heaven that his friends and disciples stared up into the sky, sad to see him go. But two of God's special Angels comforted Jesus' friends with the assurance that they would experience this same Jesus in their hearts when his Holy Spirit would come in just a few days. For us, we celebrate our annual observance of Pentecost Sunday next week. However, like the first disciples of Christ, we have opened our hearts up to receive the Holy Spirit and God has intimately walked with us and talked with us ever since. With every breath we breathe, we feel the love of God the Father, the presence of Jesus Christ His Son, and the assurance of the Holy Spirit every moment of every day.

I can also say that since my dear Mother and Father have passed on into the presence of God the Father, with Jesus at His right hand, I often feel closer to them than I did when I was separated from them for so long by the many miles between Georgia and North Carolina.

Jesus' ascension was his opportunity to go back to heaven permanently, and sit on His Throne next to His Father. He intercedes for us in our prayers and, He will greet us in Glory, someday. Yesterday, when I told Marilyn how I planned to end the sermon, she said, “Well Jesus deserved it; He did so much for us!” None of us could disagree.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
5/23/04 , Ascension Sunday, Year C