Let’s stay with the story of the Ascension one more day. Why? Because Luke does. He ends the Gospel of Luke with the story of the Ascension, and then tells the story again at the beginning of Acts. Why does he tell and then retell this moment in the life of Jesus and his followers?
I think Luke decides to tell the story of the Ascension twice because it’s an absolutely crucial moment, a leadership transition moment. Here we find the passing of the church plant off to the second pastor.
I know something of moments like this because I’m a second pastor. I followed the founding pastor of Sycamore Creek. The church went from having a grandma as their pastor to having a thirty-three-year-old who didn’t even have any kids as their pastor. That’s a whiplash moment for any church, even a strong one.
These moments are important because being off by even a small amount can lead to really challenging events over time. If a rocket heading to the moon is off course by one degree, then it will miss it by over four thousand miles. Transitions and new beginnings are that important!
There are at least two things that are essential to get right at this moment in Luke’s story: the mission and power of the church. First, the followers of Jesus have to decide whether they will focus on themselves and “restore the kingdom to Israel” or whether they will be a community focused outward to the world around them. Second, they must be empowered to accomplish their mission by the Holy Spirit.
During moments of transition, be sure to get those two things right. Otherwise you might be off by more than four thousand miles!
Where do you have a transition this week that could result in your focusing on yourself? Ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to stay focused outward.
How did you first hear about the gospel? Was it from your family or a friend? Or was it from a completely unexpected source? This week’s readings remind us that God uses many different techniques of revelation. Paul and Silas are in prison in Philippi, and the guard of the prison has no idea that he is about to encounter the power of God and come to faith. The psalmist says that creation itself reveals God’s glory and power. In Revelation, Jesus speaks directly about his future return and reign, as attested by his messenger and by the Spirit. Jesus prays in John for his followers, because through their unity the gospel will be proclaimed to others. Although Jesus ascends to heaven, the revelation of his plan and purpose does not end.
Read Acts 16:16-34. Recall a difficult time in your life. Were you able to continue to praise God through this time?
Read Psalm 97. Write your own word picture of what it means to be a child of God, who is in control.
Read Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21. How has Jesus’ invitation to partake of the water of life changed you?
Read John 17:20-26. What signs of division do you see in your community? How can you work toward the oneness to which God calls us?
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