Summary: A Sermon for Ascension Day - and life after death!
My friend Ron, who is the Vicar of Sixpenny Handley, is a story teller like I am. Some years ago, in the week before Ascension Day, he told us this story..
"I was a little lad at School, and, at the start of the year in my new Class my teacher was giving jobs out to the boys and girls. "Mary, I want you to be Pencil Monitor. You are to give pencils out to everyone when they come in in the morning". "Peter, you are to be Chalk Monitor. You are to make sure the chalk is ready for the blackboard". On and on she went giving out little jobs to each of us, and then she came to me. "Ron, I want you to be TOP MONITOR" she said. "TOP MONITOR? Wow, that sounded great" I thought - I felt very proud of myself, being chosen to be TOP Monitor....... until she finished her explanation "Every day 35 bottles of milk will be delivered to the class room, one each for you to drink. Ron, it’ll be your job to take the tops off the bottles so that the children can drink them.". Then she turned to David. "David, you’ll be Straw Monitor - you put the straws in the bottles to drink through".
"That taught me a lesson" said Ron. "It taught me that to be TOP Monitor, I had to be prepared to serve.
I thought of Ron’s story this week, when I was getting ready for Ascension Day. We’re told that, when Jesus left His Disciples and Ascended into Heaven, He returned to His Father to reign with Him in Heaven. Now that sounds great and wonderful, doesn’t it,l - and indeed it is. But we need to remember that Jesus’ idea of reigning is not like ours. For instance, on the night before He died we’re told that "Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father..... so He rose from the table, tied a towel round his waist, and began to wash His Disciple’s feet............. Then, when He had finished He said, "Do you understand what I have just done to you?......... If I, your Lord and Master have washed your feet, so you too must learn to wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do what I have done for you".
And that’s what it was like when Jesus returned to heaven. Yes, He returned to a position of glory, reigning alongside His Father, but that glory is seen most powerfully displayed in the One who kneels to serve. And what’s true for Jesus is also g oing to be true for us when we arrive in Heaven - and what’s happening to us here and now is getting ready for that life of service - God is using our life on this side of death to prepare us for life in Heaven.
Here’s another story - this time one of mine.
In between School and Nursing, my wife, Jill worked for a while in a rubber factory in her home town of Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire........ her job was to test rubber to find its ’YIELD POINT’. Some of the rubber products she was testing were g oing to be used in the Motor Industry as parts of cars. It was absolutely vital to know that the rubber part would do it’s job properly, and not break under pressure. So the rubber was tested, put under pressure, compressed and compressed, then stretched and stretched to find how much stretching it could take before it broke - how much pressure could be put on it before it yielded. If that rubber was within certain limits, then you knew it would do its job properly - that it wouldn’t let you down. That’s why she had to find the "YIELD POINT".
Well, that’s what’s happening to you and me, here and now. God is testing us to see if we’re fit to serve - He is preparing us for a life of responsibility in life beyond death.
To show that we won’t let Him down, (to show that we’re ready to the the job He has prepared for us), He puts strains and tensions into our lives - He puts us into situations which stretch us!
Why? Doesn’t God KNOW what we’re capable of? Yes, He does, but WE don’t.
We need to have confidence that we won’t let Him down....... THAT’S why we have so many stresses and strains......... He is preparing us for the great responsibility He will give to us in life beyond death. That’s what this life is all about - it’s a preparation for life beyond death - a life where we reign with Him, yes, reigning through a life of service to the family of Heaven.