Acts 1:1-11 (NRSV)
[Luke writes:] 1In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But 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.” 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They 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.”
ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:
- What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about?
The challenging part for me in this text is that I like my life to run on a schedule. I am always making plans, and once something has made it onto my calendar, it might as well be set in stone. Here, Jesus says “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). The disciples want to know when the next stage of God’s salvation plan will begin, and Jesus tells them that knowing is not a part of the plan. I know that God works on a time table that is vastly different than ours is, but knowing this and being comfortable with it are two different things. When was a time in your life when you wanted God to work on your time table? How did it work out?
- What delights me in this text? What is my favorite part, and why?
The true delight to me in this text is that Jesus does not leave us alone. The Ascension is another part of God’s rescue plan, and that plan includes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit among us. It is the Holy Spirit that gives the disciples to power to launch the Christian church all the way out to the edges of the known world. In my own life, it is the wisdom and courage of the Holy Spirit that helps me to step out in faith, even when I am not sure of the next step. When was a time in your life when you knew or felt the presence of Jesus or the Holy Spirit in your life? What difference did it make?
- What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? How does this story connect to the story of my life?
When I was serving in central Pennsylvania, Ascension Day was a major holiday in our community. The local Amish took the day off to go fishing, and it was a time to gather together as a community to celebrate. One year, another local pastor and my self had commissioned the Boy Scout Troup to build rockets to launch as a part of the celebration. We all gathered on the church lawn to launch the rockets. As soon as all of us were looking skyward, trying to catch the last glimpse of the rockets at their zenith, the other pastor quoted the white-robed men in Acts, “[Men and women of Kratzerville], 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.” I will always remember his perfect timing with that quote, because it reminds me not to hold on to the things that are past and gone, even if they were wonderful, but to keep my feet firmly planted on the earth and be open to where the Spirit is leading, here and now and in this place. What parts of the past are you holding onto? How is the past keeping you from seeing where God is working in the present? How are you being called to see your life, your church, your community with new eyes?
- What is God up to in this text? What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?
God is calling Jesus back to his rightful place at the Father’s right hand in glory. God is preparing to send the Holy Spirit, and to release the disciples as witnesses to the power of Jesus’ resurrection, all the way to the ends of the earth. He is calling me to live into this good news as another joyful witness who is always looking for the presence of God working, in and among us. In what ways is God calling you to be a witness, in your life, in our community, across the world?
I look forward to celebrating the Ascension with you, Easter people!
Pastor Breen Marie Sipes