The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ
on the Seventh Sunday of Easter
Acts 1:1-11 (Men of Galilee, why do you stand there looking at the sky?)
Psalm 47 (God mounts his throne to shouts of joy)
Ephesians 1:17-23 (Our hope is in God; He is our strength)
Luke 24:46-53 (You are witnesses of all these things)
(The Seventh Sunday of Easter)
Acts 7:55-60 (The martyrdom of Deacon Stephen)
Psalm 97 (The Lord is king, the most high over all the earth)
Revelation 22:12-20 ('I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end;' Marana tha!!)
John 17:20-26 ('I pray that where I am [the faithful] may also be with me')
I have felt a bit out of sorts today. While out at Cornerstone today, my bass guitar kept cutting in and out of the church's sound system; and later, the batteries in the microphone I use died and when I went to sing, knew I wasn't coming through. For the first time ever, I began to entertain feelings like perhaps I didn't belong there.
Maybe it's because I didn't hear the passage from Acts about the martyrdom of one of my patrons, Deacon Stephen. I wouldn't have heard it even had I been with my Catholic congregation - here, as in most of the US, the observance of the Ascension of Jesus has been moved from Thursday to the following Sunday. As I quipped to Jeff, the worship coordinator, it got moved because "nobody showed up on Thursday."
Stephen's martyrdom, as witnessed by (then) Saul of Tarsus, would soon be followed by change seemingly most drastic. Saul was next in line as a sort of successor to Stephen in ministry, and that change was thrust upon him.
Paul of Cornerstone preached today on being able to accept change as a result of the Easter 'event.' As most of us are well aware, people are generally resistant to change, especially when things are going well. It is what is unknown about the future, that lack of certainty even when the likely outcome is 99% sure, that makes us resistant.
Two or three summers ago, I discussed with my friend Mike that change can sometimes be likened to the passing of the torch at the Olympics. Either you run with it or get out of the way. I said that at a time when the future as I saw it was not in as much fluctuation. I could run with it; in fact, I was eager to do so for a host of reasons.
Now, the torch is about to pass again; and not in just one place. Both Pastor Paul and Father Damien are leaving their current positions. The latter is retiring at age 71, and the former is being reassigned to a congregation sixty miles away. (God has blessed them with a great person. I say that because he is not ashamed to admit his humanness and the associated inherent weaknesses before his congregation.)
I am not ready to see either one go, especially both at the same time. It might have been easier for me if they had left months apart but that's not the plan...
Hello, I must be going
I cannot stay
I came to say
I must be going
I'm glad I came
But just the same
I must be going...
For my sake you must stay
For if you go away
You'll spoil this notion I am holding
I'll stay a week or two
No more than that for you
Yes, I am telling you
I must be going...
(Most of the lyrics above are from playwright George S. Kaufmann and immortalized by actor/comedian Groucho Marx.)
I'm reminded that after the Resurrection, the next key event in Salvation History 101 had to be Jesus' departure from the physical plane that He'd been attached to for the last thirty-odd years. It was absolutely necessary for him to leave, for had he not done so, we could not receive the Holy Spirit - the fulfillment of several prophecies in the Gospels. If Jesus had remained in the physical body on Earth forever, we'd be looking to have him intervene in everything - from political turmoil to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And that's just not the plan. We have to work these things out, while considering the now cliched question, "What Would Jesus Do?" Without the Ascension, without the Holy Spirit, there would be no leadership in Peter, no Deacon Stephen, no commanding exhortations from either Paul of Tarsus or Paul of Cornerstone - or anything else. All Jesus did would have been left to him, and we would be left to...well, nothing, (Arguably, but that's the only conclusion I can make.)
It's not like any of this is a sudden surprise now. I've known about this for months. But the long reminisces and goodbyes are starting; moving ahead is that much harder at the moment, and dwelling on the unknown is frustrating.
I'll get past it; God is not through with me yet. I am trusting that all will be well in the grand scheme of things; that is, the Plan as it relates on an interpersonal level, will continue to be favorable. I've already begun my round of 'thank yous' and will share more soon.
I wish nothing but the best for them, and at the same time, wish nothing but the best for all of us. After all, that is what God in his infinite love for us has so freely given...from Day One.