yesterday in church we talked about the ascension of Jesus, as recorded in acts 1:1-11. it is such an interesting story because it has this old school, otherworldly feel to it, like Jesus is just floating away on a cloud. one almost feels that the story should also involve a witch, a princess, and a dragon or two.
but it doesn't. it isn't a moralizing fable or a fairy tale. it is simply a story about power. it has been like 5 or 6 weeks since Jesus demonstrated otherworldly power by defeating death, and since then he has been continuing to mystify and baffle his followers by showing up in locked rooms and at inopportune times. he is clearly not just the carpenter-rabbi that they had thought they knew...truly he is the Son of God. and this little anecdote is the final chapter of that particular story. here is shows that it is not only the law of death which holds no power over him, but also the law of gravity. he has power. power over the grave. power over gravity. power over whatever holds us down.
and there's a great deal that tried to hold him down, right? lies, deception, accusations, jealousy, fear, anger, etc. they even tried to literally nail him down and then seal him in a tomb. but they couldn't hold him down.
there's a great deal that tries to hold us down, too, isn't there? the daily grind. despair. numbness. status quo. sinfulness. fear. anxiety. physical pain. sickness. grief. woundedness. and the list goes ever on, it seems. we are weighed down by so much gravity. and it is in the midst of this weight that we read this story and imagine Jesus rising up into the clouds. we celebrate his victory over sin and death, and yet we still feel a very real struggle with sin and death. and so Christ, in all his resurrection power, speaks to us:
"you, too, will receive power."
"when the holy spirit comes on you."
do you hear that promise? it is awesome. we may read it and think that we have been promised the Holy Spirit, and that is true, but there is a bit more to the promise. just as Jesus is demonstrating his power over what holds us down, he promises us power through the holy spirit. power. jesus is promising us power over what holds us down. power over the grave. power over gravity and all that grinds us down into the dust and detritus of the daily grind. we don't have to be crushed. he lifts us up. we have that power through the Spirit of God.
it's an amazing promise that i pray you will find some time to reflect on during this week leading up to pentecost. but don't reflect too long. for just as the disciples were standing there, gaping at the sky and amazed at Jesus' anti-gravitational powers, he said one more thing to them. he said, "go. go and be my witnesses. at home, in your neighborhood, across the railroad tracks, and all over the world. don't just stand here staring. get on with it!"
get up and get on with it. that's really the message of the ascension. we don't have to be crushed and weighed down. we don't have to be slaves to the grave. with the power of the Christ through the Holy Spirit, we can get up. and what do we get up for, if not to get going to whatever place God is calling us? each day is a new adventure, a new chapter, a new tale to be told. who will we be in this story? those who are crushed underfoot by the oppressive weight of the forces of the firmament? or will be those who rise up and sing the stories of freedom, of hope, and of love wherever the story finds us? get up, friends. get up, and get going.