Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ascension Day

Today, forty days into the Easter Season, is the Feast of the Ascension. It’s still Eastertide, but these last ten days of Easter represent a shift. As Luke tells the story, Jesus goes out to Bethany to say goodbye to the disciples and then ascends to the right hand of the Father. Ten days from now we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost.

So how might we describe these last ten days of the Easter season, this time between Ascension and Pentecost? The collect for today suggests some level of anxiety, because in all times of waiting (and an uncertain future) there is always some level of anxiety. For those first disciples, Christ has ascended, but the Holy Spirit has not shone up yet. And so they wait, imploring God: “Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit, to strengthen us, and to exalt us…”  

I find myself thinking about some of the waiting times in my own life: waiting for the first day of kindergarten, or waiting to graduate from high school. Waiting for children to be born, waiting in the surgical ICU, waiting with parishioners whose loved ones are dying. Right now I am in the midst of saying goodbyes and waiting to begin a new job. There are times of waiting in every season of our lives. I imagine these last ten days of Eastertide as something like some of these other “waiting times:” a time of expectation, and yet also a time filled with no small amount of anxiety and fear about what comes next. Do not leave us comfortlessbut send us your Holy Spirit, to strengthen us, and to exalt us…”  

We worry through transitions (or at least I do) that life will not go on—that somehow we will never be comforted. Change can be scary, and it brings with it a sense of loss as well as a sense of anticipation. But there is also that experience of powerlessness, the kind that makes us realize we have no choice but to “let go, and let God.”  

Turning again to the story Luke gives us in Acts, it's worth noting what the disciples do while they wait. They go back to an upper room in Jerusalem to devote themselves to prayer. (See Acts 1:14). This is what we can do while we wait: we can devote ourselves to prayer. In times of transition when it is unclear what the future will bring, we can be prayerful waiters. Wait for the Lord,” the Psalmist reminds us. “…be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) And this, from Psalm 130: 

            I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
                        my soul waits for the Lord
                                    More than those who watch for the morning,
                                    More than those who watch for the morning

What we pray for as we mature in faith is not that everything will stay the same, but rather, that our times of waiting will lead us to be stronger and more courageous and more hopeful - until a new day dawns. These, I think, are gifts the Holy Spirit brings—whether She comes like a mighty wind or as a gentle breath. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Rich, for your words of encouragement.
    Deborah Johansen Harris