June 2, 2019
“Getting on the Balcony”
(Psalm 47, Acts 1:1-11, Luke 24:44-53)
When we visit Quebec City, we often explore a famous Basilica called Saint Anne De Beaupre. Saint Anne’s is a gigantic structure, with incredible, ornate, mind boggling detail both inside and out. It is easy to be transfixed while looking up at the ceiling of the sanctuary with all of its detail. Yet if we spend our time looking up at the beauty of the church building, we miss out on what the church has been created for in the first place. It’s OK to look up, but not at the expense of looking around. It is important to change our perspective, to get on the balcony so we can see the big picture when it comes to our call as the church.
The scripture readings from the New Testament focus on the ascension of Jesus; we find the following three points in the readings. First, Jesus explained that his ministry, death and resurrection are fulfillment of prophecy and part of God’s plan. Second, Jesus gave instruction for the people to remain in Jerusalem to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:4-5, Luke 24:49.) Third, the ascension of Jesus, which to those gathered would be an indication of his divinity.
Notice something important happens at the end of the Acts passage. Two men are described speaking to the disciples, saying “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” The men go on to explain that Jesus will return someday just as he has ascended. In the meantime, the inference is made by the two men-don’t just stand around, there is ministry to be done! Implying that if they continue to gaze toward heaven, transfixed by what they have just witnessed, the call Jesus made to them to be about the business of kingdom building couldn’t take place. Instead of staring toward heaven, they were to change their gaze (or, focus their attention elsewhere.)
Recall Jesus’ words from John 14:12: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” In today’s reading we witness Jesus ascending to the Father; now it’s time for the church to get busy! Indeed, next week we will celebrate the birth of the church, when the gift Jesus instructed them to wait for comes upon the people gathered in Jerusalem. The experience of Pentecost inspired the birth of the church as we know it today, millions and millions of people around the world in ministry together in Jesus’ name.
As we consider the ascension of Jesus we acknowledge it is good to look up in wonder and praise. But we are called to get on the balcony, to look around at the big picture. Ministry happens most often when we look around, not up. As followers of Christ, mission and ministry happens when we remember the words of the two men at the end of today’s passage from Acts who asked (paraphrasing here) People, why do you stand looking-up toward heaven? There is work to be done…get on the balcony and look at the big picture!