ďA Scratch in TimeĒ
Ascension of the Lord
June 1, 2003
††††††††† Today I want to speak directly to the graduates here today, and I hope and pray that this message will speak to all of us as well.† As you know, today we are celebrating Graduation Sunday and recognizing those who have already, or will very soon, graduate from high school and college.†
For those graduating from high school, you have spent the last twelve years of your life in school working toward this day.† Twelve years is a long time to be in school, and Iím sure all of you feel an enormous sense of relief and accomplishment that this day is finally here for you.† You should be proud of yourself, as we are all proud of you.†
For those of you who have graduated from college, you have spent an even longer time in school to earn your degree.† You have put in many hours of study, class time, and work to graduate with a degree in your field of study, and I know how it feels to have all that behind you.† Iím sure all you also feel an enormous sense of relief and accomplishment.† You too should be proud of yourselves, as we are also proud of you.
††††††††† Graduating from high school and college is a big event for all of you, and if you are anything like I was, your thoughts are on the future.† Some of you already know what you will be doing.† You have already been accepted to a college or university to begin earning your degree, or you already have a job lined up or are already working at a new job.†
Others of you may not be so sure about what you are going to do next.† Your future plans are still up in the air, and your not quite sure how things will work out.†
††††††††† The time between graduation and starting college or a new job can be an awkward time for you.† You have just taken a big step in your journey of life moving from one moment in your journey toward the start of another.† While at the same time that you feel a sense of relief and accomplishment for what you have just gone through, there is also a sense of anticipation and anxiety about what is coming up.† This is a time of pause and transition for you as you reflect upon what you have done and think about what you will be doing.†
It is interesting that at the same time that you are in this awkward time of pause and transition, in this in between time, we, the church, also find ourselves in this same awkward time.† We too have gone through an enormous step in our journey of faith in celebrating Easter, and now we stand in this in between time looking toward the next moment in our journey, Pentecost.†
Like bookends on a book shelf, Easter Sunday sits on one side and Pentecost Sunday on the other, and we find ourselves in the middle of the shelf, just passed Easter, with its filled up pews, Easter lilies, Easter hymns, and the glorious proclamation that Christ is risen, but not quite to Pentecost, with its story of the coming of the Holy Spirit like a violent wind, which fills up the apostles, and breathes life into the church.†
With Easter comes the good news about Jesus; with Pentecost comes the good news about the church.† With Easter comes Godís promise of eternal life in the resurrection; with Pentecost comes Godís promise of eternal presence in us.† Easter and Pentecost Ė the two bookends of the Christian story - two explosive, exuberant, glorious, and confident days on our Christian calendar.
††††††††† But in between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday, there is what?† There is Ascension Ė when Jesus left the earth, ascended into the clouds, as his apostles gazed up into heaven.† Theologically, of course, much more is going on in the passage than simply just a recounting of this mysterious, transcendent event.†
For Luke, this is an important event in Jesusí life.† In his first book, Luke ends his Gospel with the account of Jesusí ascension, and now he begins his second book, Acts of the Apostles, with the same account.† For Luke, and for those who read his two books, the story of Jesusí ascension is an important one for Christians, addressing an unvoiced question: Where is Jesus?†
For Luke, and for Christians, Jesus is where he is supposed to be, the only place he can be, in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.† He is not in the ground, nor stored away in the archives of history, nor lost in the shades of oblivion, nor held, like a fading image in human memory.† Jesus has returned to the Father, to the one who sent him.† Jesus is where God is.†
And yet, this story is more than just about an important event in the life of Christ, it is also about an important moment, a defining moment in the lives of the apostles.† For the apostles, they have just gone through an extra-ordinary event in their journey of faith in the resurrection, and as they walk along with Jesus and hear Jesusí promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them, I sure they were looking toward the future with excitement and anticipation.†
But then without warning, Jesus ascends from them and disappears in the clouds out of sight.† Like a scratch on a CD, for a brief moment the blaring music of Easter stops, and the apostles find themselves in this time of silent pause, in this scratch in time, before the music starts again for them at Pentecost.†
For three years they had followed Jesus, heard his teaching, saw his miracles, and felt his love for them, but their leader, teacher, and Lord, was gone.† One can only imagine what they must have been going through Ė wondering what they should do next, where they should go, and what is in store for them in the future.†
Jesus had promised the coming of the Holy Spirit, and said that they will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, but with Jesus gone, their future must have been up in the air just as much as Jesus had been.† Would they still do as Jesus asked?† Would they stay in Jerusalem?† Would they become Jesusí witnesses, as he had said they would?† Yes, they did do as Jesus asked and stayed in Jerusalem, and thanks be to God they also become the witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.†††
For you graduates and for all of us in the church, the words of the two men in white robes to the apostles, is a reminder to us, that this awkward time in the middle, this time of pause and transition, this scratch in time, is as important and defining for us as Jesusí disciples, as it was for Jesusí apostles, because life is full of these scratches in time between one event in our lives and another.†
They come in all shapes and sizes, some are so fine that they hardly scratch the surface and we take little notice of them, others go much deeper, sometimes cutting us to the bone.† But how we go through these scratches in time says a lot about who we are and what we believe.
††††††††† With any scratch on a CD, our first inclination is to either just rewind or fast forward through it or get rid of it all together by buffing it out or just buying a new one, but we shouldnít be so hasty to just dismiss these times as just lulls in the action and idle time, but as opportunities for growth, as opportunities for remembrance, reflection, evaluation, prayer, and community.
††††††††† This time is a good time to take a look back and remember all the important moments we have experienced, and then reflect upon how God has been with us along the way, how God has shaped and transformed us, and how God has brought us to where we are today.† And, we should also take time to look forward, and evaluate where we are going, and to ask ourselves whether or not we have been walking on the path of righteousness, and whether or not we are being Godís chosen people in the world.† And if not, then how we might begin to be changed, so that we may be in step with God and Godís call for us.†
And at every time, we should always be in constant prayer and involved in the community of faith, so that together we can remain connected and in communion with God, through every new stage of life.† Only in this way, will we be better able to discern Godís purpose and will for all of us, regardless of the location of our school or work.† †††
There is no doubt that at times we need to look up, because the glory here and now doesnít compare to the glory that is waiting for us.† Sometimes we need to look up, to remind us of our hope that one day soon, the only tears we will see, will be tears of joy.† Sometimes we need to look up, to remind us of our faith that Jesus is going to come again in the same way he went into heaven as we pray, ďCome Lord Jesus.Ē† Sometimes we just need to look up, because we want to see, even as we are fully seen by him.†
But we can never forget that we also need to look out, out over the path in front of us, over the people we meet, over the future that is before us, and to set our vision upon Jesusí call for us to be his loving servants and faithful witnesses.††
To all the graduates and to all of us who worship here together today, we celebrate this day not only as a scratch in time between the music of Jesusí life, death, and resurrection, and the start of the music of the Church through the Holy Spirit, but also as a time of rejoicing for what has come and for what is to come.† For it is through the promised Holy Spirit that we, the community of faith, will continue to meet the living Christ in our life of faith together, and we will continue, with all power and boldness, to make Christ known, not only in Stuarts Draft, even to the ends of the earth.† Amen.