Acts 1:1-11 “… [Jesus said] 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….” (vs. 8.)
Ephesians 1:15-23 “…I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power….” (vs. 17-19)
Luke 24:49-53 “…[Jesus said} ‘see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’“ (v. 49)
Ascension Day follows the high drama of Holy Week: the palm-waving crowds, the betrayals, the scourging, the crucifixion and resurrection. All of those days are full of interprettation and meaning. But Ascension Day is rather vacuous of meaning. Jesus says to his followers, “Stay here. Wait. Wait until you have been clothed with power.” Why the wait? I think God is waiting for us, for me and for you, to say “yes” with our own lives: our readiness or at least our willingness to co-operate with God for what God has in mind for our own lives. Dag Hammarskjöld, the great Secretary General of the United Nations, wrote in his diary just before Pentecost in 1961: “…at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone – or Something – and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”1 Say Yes to your own life. God is waiting for us to say Yes to our own lives, which will open up this channel of God’s power at work within us and through us.
Here’s what that would mean:
- God’s waiting for our willingness to be a channel of God’s power, a conduit of God’s power especially in those ways and places where we may be afraid. It’s to take Jesus’ often-repeated words at face value: “fear not,” “do not be anxious.” I think God is waiting for us to say Yes to his promise and his presence and his power.2
- God’s waiting for us to say “Yes” to the forgiveness that Jesus offers us: to accept God’s forgiveness in our own lives, and then to be a channel of this same forgiveness to others, even if we are offended or insulted or disappointed enough times we may need to forgive them even seventy times seven?3
- Our preparedness to receive the peace which Jesus leaves with us to courageously, zealously be present in those places, with those people and in those relationships where there is conflict and unrest, which could easily be tempted to avoid.5 It’s to sayYes to Jesus’ gift of peace flowing through our own lives.
- Our preparedness to lay down our lives for our friends (and perhaps even our enemies) in the name of Jesus?4 It’s to very concretely, daily, give up the delusion that we possess our life, that our life belongs to us, but rather that our life belongs to God, to be used, and used up, as God wills. Life is like a grain of wheat that must fall into the earth and die, every day, again and again if we are to be abundantly alive the way God intends and to bear the fruit that God desires.6 It’s our willingness to have our lives pruned by God.7
I think these days of waiting between the Ascension and Pentecost are not very much about our waiting on God. (Jesus already said from the cross that “it is finished.”) I think it is much more about God’s waiting on us: God’s waiting, not for our ability but for our availability, our availability to receive the power Jesus intends for us. To quote Dag Hammarskjöld again: “To say Yes to life is at one and the same time to say Yes to oneself.” Hammarskjöld says, “[say] Yes, even to that element in [ourselves] which is most unwilling to let itself be transformed from fear and temptation into strength.”8
Jesus is dying to hear us say Yes to the life we’ve been given, to be a channel of God’s power at work within us, even far beyond all that we could ask or imagine.9
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