“When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” – Acts 1:9-11
Today is the ancient church feast commemorating the story of Jesus’ ascension. This story is feature prominently in Luke and Acts.
The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are believed to share the same author. There are many similarities between these two books. Yet, in retelling the same event, there is slight difference between the two. The story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven is at the end of Luke and at the beginning of Acts. They both refer to the coming Holy Spirit but they differ in one interesting detail; the prolonged stare.
In Acts, the disciples continue to scan the skies after Jesus has departed. Their stare into the heavens seems full. Are they full of amazement at watching Jesus levitate into the sky? Are they full of expectation, waiting for Jesus to reappear? Perhaps they are full of questions.
I wonder how long the angels waited before deciding to call the disciples’ attention back to earth.
I love this detail for its simplicity, its implied humor, and for its realism. There have been several moments in my life (eg moving to a new place, bringing home a child, starting a new job, etc) when I have caught myself staring into the middle distance wondering, “Now what?”
God knows that every now and again we need a bit of a nudge to move. We need an invitation, a question, a gentle reminder that we have a calling to live into. The story of the ascension reminds us that God has a ministry for us. God believes we can live into our calling to love and serve. God will be part of our actions, enlivening our efforts, and guiding our way through the Holy Spirit. Let us not forget that the Holy Spirit is spoken of as wind, water, and fire. The spirit is dynamic and on the move.
And so are we.