A Cycle – Feast of the Ascension 23

A Cycle – Feast of the Ascension 23

Acts 1:1-11

Each of us may have at some point in our faith journey wondered how the disciples were able to overcome their confusion and fear after the crucifixion of Jesus.  The scriptures reveal they were more than confused and frightened. They were uncertain about the future without Christ to lead them.  They were even confused by His appearances to them after his death or what that meant for the future.  They seemed to have forgotten every lesson Jesus ever taught them.  What do you do when you are aimless and without hope? Jesus was not there to answer their cries of despair and they did not know how to respond to the risen Lord appearing to them.

That was the issue for them during those forty days between the Passover meal (the night Jesus was arrested) and Ascension.  That is also the issue for us today, isn’t it? How do we respond to the risen Lord?   Luke in the Acts of the Apostles gives us the only clue we need to rid ourselves of all confusion, all doubts, and all discouragement when he quotes Jesus saying the Kingdom of God is among us. 

Jesus during those days between the resurrection and his ascension spoke to the disciples about the Kingdom of God and prepared them for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  Jesus began His ministry by proclaiming the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mt.4:17).  From the moment Jesus invited them to follow Him and throughout His ministry Jesus spoke of the Kingdom and told us what it was like. Then He passes on this mission to the disciples and empowers them to not only proclaim it but to manifest its power by signs and wonders. 

Over the past forty years I have witnessed many miracles brought about through the prayers of ordinary men and women who believe the Kingdom of God is among us today.   We do not have to be saints to call upon the power of God to act in our lives for Jesus told us we would do the things he did and greater.  We fail to understand the immense power of God available to us as we give witness to the risen Lord. The problem for us is we think too much about the final Kingdom. We ignore or we are unaware of the present kingdom which Jesus invites us to live in today.

 We should immerse ourselves in the Acts of the Apostles every day for the next week and as we read those stories, pay attention to the bold actions of the disciples.  How did they become so bold, so confident and so unconcerned about the reaction of those who opposed them?  Something happened that changed them, and it was the fulfillment of the promise of God given to us in the Book of Joel.

Before His ascension Jesus tells the disciples to wait in the city until they “receive the promise of the Father and they are clothed with power from on high.”  That promise of God was made through the prophets through whom God revealed His plan for our redemption. 

What God revealed was blood of an innocent unblemished lamb would be shed for the forgiveness of sin and the Spirit would be poured into our hearts to change us.  We cannot be disciples by embracing only one part of God’s plan.  This is why Jesus, on the night before He died, told in that it was better for them that He go for if He did not go the Spirit would not come.  That is why John the Baptist said, “one was coming after him who would baptize us in Spirit and Fire.” 

Remember how confused the disciples were when Jesus appears to them after His death.  They were overjoyed for sure, but they were also confused because they did not know what His appearance meant.  Was He always going to be appearing and teaching them or was this going to end at some point?  It was not until His ascension when they were told to “wait until you receive the promise of the Father.” That is when they turned to prayer and expectantly waited for the promise to come. 

This outpouring of the Spirit is an event we all need to experience, and we need to submit to it happening to us.  Each of us needs to ponder what this promise is to be overshadowed by the Spirit, just as Mary pondered what the angel said to her. 

Do you want to live in the kingdom of the world hoping for the Kingdom will be yours after death?  Or do you want to live in the Kingdom of God on earth and experience each day what the Kingdom to come is like? 

Those who have received this baptism of Spirit and Fire feel the presence of God, hear the voice of God speaking to their hearts daily and know they are loved and forgiven by God. They are bold because they know God’s Spirit is constantly at work transforming them from glory to glory into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).  

We can prepare for our own experience of the Holy Spirit overshadowing us and equipping us for holiness.  It begins by praying for the “Promise of the Father” to enter us and stir within us.  It begins by acknowledging Christ died for the forgiveness of “my” sin.  Not anyone else’s sin but make it personal it is you Christ died to redeem.

 It begins by acknowledging we have lived by the world’s standard for far too long and now want to live by God’s standard of holiness. Which is ours by the action of the Holy Spirit changing us and not through any of our own acts of piety seeking God’s approval. It begins when all our actions and gifts are done by a response to God’s mercy.  When we feel the power of forgiveness all our actions become a response to His mercy.  Our desires motivate us to worship Him. 

Come Holy Spirit come with the Fire of your love and renew me, fill me, flood me, and guide me.