Today, we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus. In Acts 1:6-10, we read:
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or 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.” 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.
It is a strange holy day. To most theologians, it is a remind that, though Jesus is absent in body, he is present by his Spirit.
But to many, Ascension signifies the day that Jesus said, “I’m going to the corner store for cigarettes” but never returned.
My mom used to send me to the corner store (Jeff’s Food Center) to buy her cigarettes. All I needed was a note from her. Often, as I picked up the cigarettes, I’d banter with Jeff (or whoever was working the counter) about how my mom had emphysema and should probably quit smoking.
I’ve always associated smoking with issues of abandonment. My mom left because of cigarettes (through death) but I’ve actually known someone who was abandoned the conventional way by a father who stepped out to buy cigarettes and never returned.
I imagine many folks feel similarly abandoned by God. God failed to live up to His promises. Or perhaps God failed them by simply dwindling and dying, like my mother.
Many of us feel abandoned by parents. Or abandoned by our society or government. To varying degrees, we all know the sting of disappointment, of rejection, of loneliness.
And so, it is hard to feel hope or comfort in Jesus’ promise that he’d send his Spirit to us…to comfort us and guide us into all truth.
Because, most of the time, it is hard for us to feel the presence of the Spirit. It is much easier to feel abandoned.
Experiencing God is often tied to experiencing the loving attention of others. We, the Body of Christ are to be the enfleshment of Jesus’ spirit to the world. We are the Flesh of God.
What does it mean to live in the world in such a way that the broken-hearted feel God’s presence? That they don’t feel abandoned? That they have hope and joy? What does it mean to be witnesses in a world where many feel God-forsaken?