Summary: Just half a verse in Acts 1:1-12 describes Jesus being taken into heaven. What’s in the other 11 1/2 verses?

Ascension Day sermon 2012

There’s a classic psychology experiment where the professor gets a group of his psychology students to stand on a street corner all staring up at the sky and pointing … and guess what - without fail lots of other people start gathering round to look up at the sky and try to work out what they are looking.

As the angels say in the reading “Men of Galilee - why do you stand there looking up towards heaven?” They have their heads in the clouds...

Most Sundays, someone will come up to me after mass and say “Fr Edmund I saw you in Sainsburys” or “I saw you on the High street” and “you walked straight past me”. I know... I will confess I am absolutely terrible at that. I can go along in my own little world and not notice people. I have my head in the clouds.

And that is what was happening with the disciples too. If we are going to be entirely literal about it, it was Jesus who had his head, and his entire body, and his feet in the clouds. That’s the point of the Ascension. He’s taken up bodily into heaven. But from a metaphorical point of view it is the disciples who have their head in the clouds, standing there, gawking, going “Whaaaa(t)?”

Yet out of the 12 verses in our reading tonight, only half a verse tells us about Jesus going up into heaven. Almost all the rest is Jesus giving the disciples instructions about what they are meant to do next. And that does not involve standing there, pointing upwards, going "Whaaaa(t)?"

The importance of the ascension lies in the words that Jesus says to his disciples before he ascends anywhere. He knows that if anyone needs grounding, it’s them. Jesus knows that if there’s anyone that needs to get their heads out of the clouds, it’s the disciples.

Just when the disciples were busying themselves with wonder about what would happen next, just when it would have been so easy for them to get distracted by all that was going on around them, just when they could have spent the next several hours with their heads in the clouds wondering where exactly Jesus disappeared to, Jesus’ words bring them, and us, back down to earth again! “Get your head out of the clouds! You’ve got work to do!” The terrible temptation that disciples of Jesus face is that it is so easy to get lazy thinking that Christ will sort everything out when he returns. We even go to great lengths predicting when exactly Christ will return, perhaps so we don’t have to do any “real” work! And so first Jesus, and then the angels say “Men of Galilee - why do you stand there looking up towards heaven?”“Get your head out of the clouds! You’ve got work to do!”

{concept from sermon By Clair Saur on this site}

You’ve got work to do!

The Olympics are only a few weeks away - can you imagine an athlete turning to his coach and saying “Coach are we going to have one of those random drug tests tomorrow?” What will the coach reply “That’s not for you to know, only for the Olympic authorities to know. You get training - you’ve got work to do”

“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the Kingdom of Israel?”

“Its not for you to know the times of the periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth”

“you’ve got work to do”

Today if you haven’t noticed is a Thursday. Some people think that Christianity is just something you do on Sundays - well they forgot to tell Jesus. I mean what’s all this about ascending into heaven on a Thursday? Surely he knew he was meant to do it on a Sunday? But of course not, because for the disciples as for us following Jesus isn’t something we can pigeonhole into one day a week.

{concept by William Baeta in a sermon on this site}

Once Jesus has gone back into heaven he tells them “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” That’s not a faith you restrict to a Sunday, that’s a seven day a week faith. The Apostles could not take the Gospel to the end of the earth as a once a week hobby - and we cannot either.

As the prayer of St Teresa of Avila goes “Christ has no body now on earth but ours, no hands but ours, no feet but ours. Ours are the eyes to see the needs of the world. Ours are the hands with which to bless everyone now. Ours are the feet with which [Jesus] is to go about doing good.”

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