Preached on 28 May, 2017 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Snohomish, Washington
The seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A
I remember when I knew that I had launched my first child. It wasn’t a milestone that’s in the baby book or one that I had anticipated or even really thought about. It was when we took her off of our insurance. She had a job with health insurance benefits, her own apartment, her own car, and her own car insurance.
It was that day that I knew that this child had become an adult. She was launched and my job at that point was to kind of get out of the way; to love her forever, of course and to be available for advice or help at times, but to let go.
There are many different milestones in our lives. The ones that are significant to each of us is different.
Of course, to arrive at that day, that milestone, takes a certain amount of preparation. It’s the child’s achievement, of course, but also the preparation offered by many people along the way, especially mothers and fathers.
It seems fitting that in the season of graduations, celebrating an important milestone in the lives of children, that we also honor the people who play an important part in getting them to that day. I use a very broad understanding of mother and father – to include biological parents, of course, but also all those men and women in our lives who have loved us, nurtured us, challenged us, encouraged us, taught us, seen in us our potential and most of all loved us even when (and perhaps especially when) we weren’t very lovable; those who have been there for us for the long haul.
We remember them and thank them and honor them.
When we find ourselves at one of those graduations or milestones, we may discover a certain reluctance to leave when the ceremonies are over, the dignitaries have left the stage, and the auditorium (or the stadium) is clearing out.
We pause, perhaps to savor the moment or perhaps to remember all the work, the sweat, the tears, maybe the worry, and certainly the love that have brought us to this point. But the thing is, it’s done. There’s nothing more to see or do here. It’s time to move forward. If your family is like mine, there’s someone growing impatient, saying, “Come on! Let’s go!”
By now you’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this. What’s it got to do with the Ascension?
A few things stood out to me from our readings today. And they all point to the same question,
“What are we waiting for?”
First, there’s the gospel. The disciples (and we) are listening in while Jesus prays. This is right before they leave the house to go to the Garden of Gethsemane where just hours later, he will be arrested.
He prays for his disciples, those that God has drawn to him, to Jesus. And in his prayer, he says, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” What was that again? Eternal life is to know God.
Usually we think of eternity to be about the quantity or length of time. And we think of time as linear so that eternity is endless time; maybe from now forward or often people think of it as beginning with death and never ending.
But Jesus’ prayer indicates that eternal life is about relationship; relationship with God. Our prayer of absolution says, “…and by the power of the Holy Spirit, keep you in eternal life.” In other words, you’re already there. Eternal life is now. Relationship with God is now.
In anticipation of what is to come, Jesus prays to God, “I am no longer in the world, but they are. Protect them in your name.” For the disciples, there is more to come after Jesus is no longer with them.
Finally, there are the two men in the reading from Acts who ask, “Why are you standing there looking up into heaven?” It’s like they’re saying, it’s over, this step is finished, it’s time to move on. What are you waiting for?
It reminds me of the Resurrection story from the same writer, Luke. When the women arrive at the tomb, two men in dazzling white garments ask, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here, he is risen.”
In a way, with the Ascension, they are launched from disciple to apostle; from one who follows and learns from a teacher and mentor to one who is sent with a mission and a message. They have Good News for all nations, to spread to the ends of the earth.
Jesus prepares disciples and sends them out to the world as apostles. And then he gets out of the way, returning to the Father, and sends the Holy Spirit to empower and guide his apostles in all Truth.
Eternal life is now. Our Mission is now.
What are we waiting for?