Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, a Principal Feast of the Church, one that is never transferred to a Sunday, which always takes place 40 days after Easter. The Lectionary appoints both versions of the ascension that were written by Luke to end his Gospel account and to open the story of the Church’s beginning in Acts. While the account in Luke’s Gospel is powerful commissioning story, because of some timing issues related to the way in which Luke tells the story, I’ve always been partial to the way the Ascension gets told in Acts.
After promising his disciples, yet again, that the Spirit would come to lead them in his absence, Jesus is lifted up to heaven by a cloud while the disciples looked on. Luke doesn’t tell us how long the disciples remained there, staring slack-jawed up toward the sky, but at some point we are told that two men (angels) in white robes appeared and said, “Men of Galilee, why do stand here looking up to heaven?”
This is a polite way of saying, “Why is your focus fixed up there, when Jesus was clear that there was still plenty of work to do down here?” The Feast of the Ascension is an annual reminder of God’s incarnational love for the world he created. As Christians, our call is not to be so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good, but rather to roll up our sleeves and get to work wherever the Spirit might lead us. We are called to focus our attention not on the age to come, but on the prayer Jesus taught us, that God’s will might be done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus has left the earth, and he has left us in charge of building the kingdom in his absence. So, dear reader, where is your focus? Where is God calling you to get to work? Where can you build the kingdom?