On the Other Side of the Cross: Offering Christ, Acts 1:1-11

Ascension SundayAscension Sunday is as important as Resurrection Sunday.  If Jesus had risen and not ascended, he would still be bodily showing up here and there.  Jesus ascends into heaven, so he could descend again and be among us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  When the Spirit came at Pentecost ten days later, Christ returned in a profoundly spiritual way-no longer localized in a single body; globalized in his new body, the church, you and I. 

What’s often lost is the in between times of Ascension Day to Pentecost to Christ Return Day.  The question that should occupy us, isn’t how will we live in heaven, but how do we live in the between times of Ascension – Pentecost -The Age to Come.  This question places us in the big picture of the work of God, taking place in these in between times until the end times when all will be right.  His resurrection signaled the beginning of the end of this broken world.  From that moment, God has been accelerating the end game; renewing and restoring creation to what God intended. holy spirit

It’s easier to see what God intends from the other side of the in-between time.  The disciples ask after before ascension, “Lord, is this the time when you’ll restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Jesus responds saying as translated by Russell: “Knowing the ‘when’ in you mind is nothing like ‘what’ the Holy Spirit does in our heart.” They felt powerless and they thought having some head knowledge about a future date would empower them. 

Jesus offered Spirit generated, life changing resurrection power that raised him from the dead, and can change the heart of any person who follows him, so they might change the world.  It’s the power of the Holy Spirit that transforms us from the inside out; assuring us we’re not alone in this world and enabling us to do God’s work in the world.  While we know these things, the disciples were in a steep learning curve.  

Jesus told them why they would receive power, “You will receive power and you will be my witnesses.”  Jesus had already given an example of what it means to witness when he overturned the tables of moneychangers in the temple.  The texts says, “The day before, late in the evening, Jesus entered the temple and looked around“.  Then he came back the next day to address the injustices he witnessed in the precincts of prayer.  He took action, but he first looked deeply and saw what was going on. 

Power to be my witnessesBefore we speak of the kingdom of God, we’re to witness by being present and watch.  The power of a witness is getting in the line of sight to help people see they can change the way they see the world.  We bring into view the kingdom God that declares the world is in God’s gracious hand and it isn’t coming apart, no matter what the newspaper writes.  The gracious hand of God is working everyday to bring about the redemption of all things.  When we witness, we invite people to enter into the kingdom.  Sometimes, we offer comfort to help them overcome fears, and other times our witness is uncomfortable putting people on notice by our notice. 

We’re eyewitnesses, which is redundant, there is no other kind.  We’re the eyes of Jesus, noticing the ordinary day to day things; seeing as he sees and speaking the good news he offered.  Some sights will not be easy to look upon; the more we witness the better the chance we join into the warp and woof of the work of the Holy Spirit who is working on us and our world.  MOm

Those who are noticed want to do well when someone is looking.  I wrote the message in the ICU waiting room.  It feels odd; standing over mom’s bed talking to doctors and nurses while her life is medically assisted.  I have wondered if she is able to see or hear what we’re doing or saying.  This last week, I imagined her watching our movements and hearing our conversations.  Let me tell you a little witnessing, makes a big difference.  I echo our founder John Wesley: “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.

Witnessing by showing up isn’t enough.  People need to hear us speak of the transforming grace of God in our own lives.  Persons need to be invited to know of the indwelling new life power that is working on us and it is available to them.  No one else, including the “professionals” can do what only you can do in the places you go.  We each have unique witness to share; no two people witness in the same way, or any of us experts.  Show up and speak on this side of the cross; offering Christ to your world.

IMG_0832 Jesus ascends on the Mt. of Olives, which is a cemetery with thousands of graves dating back thousands of years.  Some believe when the end comes, God will descend on the Mt. of Olives; ushering in the resurrection of dead.  So, people are buried there, so they can be the first to join the forces of God at the resurrection. 

When Jesus ascended, the angels told the disciples he will return in the same way he departed.  Some think he will emerge from the clouds; landing on the Mount; leading an army against the forces of evil, so to set up his kingdom on earth for a thousand years. 

Think about this: Christ came meek and mild, healing the sick, delivering the oppressed, and preaching forgiveness.  Does it make sense that when he comes back he is going to be mad; changing character between the times; replacing his loving hand with an fist of wrath?  Jesus’ ascension says we will meet the same Jesus who offered grace and compassion to strangers and all he met along his way.  Good news

Until then, we’re to be witnesses to this same Jesus; living signs of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven; offering others the full benefits of living in this world that is full of the grace of God.  We are to worry less about escaping it so we can go to heaven when we die.  We’re to witness to the joy and freedom we enjoy because of the amazing grace of God.  

The call to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of earth requires our mission be holistic; saving the whole person.  We’re to urge people to follow Christ, be baptized, grow in grace, and worship God.  We’re to also work to see they have freedom to serve the Lord and others, feed their families, grow their local economies, and live without fear of abusers, dictators and thieves who rob people of the fullness of life in Christ.  Every well dug, disease cured, or child educated is a witness for Christ.  We offer Christ by doing right, righting wrongs, acting justly and correcting injustices. This is the witness we do with our mission partners.  

JusticeThe end isn’t yet, because the world isn’t yet the kingdom of God.  All isn’t all right.  We’re to live as if Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of the end, and the forces of new creation are underway in the world.  As we live between the first coming of Jesus and his second, we offer Christ to those who are hurting, lonely, scared.  This world is full of people who hunger for a real person to show them that their life has meaning, purpose, and hope, so they dream again that they can know meaning, purpose, and hope.  

The final words of the angels to the disciples who stood there looking into the heavens as Jesus ascended are instructional in offering Christ.  They say: If we really want to see where Jesus is, stop looking up, and start looking around; be present in word and deed with any and all who have need.  It may not seem like much, but with the power of the Spirit, we’d be amazed at what a difference an “I” witness can make.

I witness

Published in: on May 15, 2013 at 8:14 am  Leave a Comment  

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