How easy it is to look to the future for a solution or an escape. How easy to associate heaven and God's will with a measure of success and freedom from pain. It would be hard to fault the disciples of Jesus for expecting that Jesus, still not long out of the tomb, would now put a bow on it and make all things right with the world. But Jesus doesn't do this. Waiting for Jesus to perfect the world once and for all, the disciples instead hear Jesus tell them to wait. Jesus does envision the world becoming a better place. But this will involve THEM...and the power that they can only receive: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." But for now? Now is a time of holding on to the promise and waiting for future glory to unfold.
The Ascension of our Our Lord is a church festival that, not surprisingly, doesn't get a lot of attention...and that's too bad. It disappears a bit between the more prominent Christian festivals of Easter and Pentecost. Not only that...on the face of it, its subject matter is less than compelling: Sunday of the Ascension commemorates what appears to be, essentially, a good-bye. Easter is that Sunday of brass instruments, Alleluias, and tombs ripped open. Pentecost, 50 days later, is a Sunday of fire and wind as the Spirit descends and inspires the breathless disciples in Jesus' physical absence...leading them to deeds no one anticipated that would take them...well, to all ends of the earth. But Sunday of the Ascension is a Sunday about waiting. It is about looking up into heaven and wondering why Jesus doesn't hang around the way we'd like him to. If you use your imagination, it could even be about heartbreak and the difficulty of enduring when all you have is the Word of God's messenger that Jesus will come again.
But that's why Sunday of the Ascension is so important. It's for everyone who faces what seem like the insurmountables of life...who wonder why Jesus appears at times not to stay...who struggle to hang on to the promise that God's sufficient grace is there for them in their time of need. Jesus actually empowered his disciples by no longer being present with them visibly, as He once had been. How is God empowering you today? How is your weakness right now (rather than the expectation of God's fix tomorrow) allowing you to wait...and to be blessed in the waiting?