Two stories of the “Ascension” in our readings today, both written by same author, Luke, but in two different books, addressing two different contexts.

We hear them today in reverse order. 

In Chronological order as they were written:

First story is the End of the Gospel according to Luke,

as the Ending of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the culmination and completion. 

Jesus is blessing the disciples as he goes to be with God.   His blessing is an ongoing action, not “blessed” as a past action, “blessing” us, continuing into the present. (the Greek word is a present participle) That in itself is worth pondering and incorporating into our self-understanding as a community of disciples, that we are assured of Jesus’ ongoing perpetual blessing.

Second version of the same story is Acts Chapter 1, first few verses of the book.  Here the Ascension is the beginning, the beginning of the Church, the beginning of the disciples taking the Gospel of Jesus out to the world. 

Both books are written to Theophilus:  The name in Greek means “lover of God!” Scholars question whether this was written to a real person named Theophilus, or symbolically written for all of us who are “lovers of God”.  The First Nations Version of the Bible addresses the book to “Friend of Creator”. Let us hear the text addressed to us!

I’m going to concentrate on the Acts version of the Ascension story, being instructions for the church.  What might it say to us about being church amidst wild changes and challenges facing us as Christians and Human beings in 2024?

The text says: “After his suffering”.  Important reminder here, the beginning of the church is only weeks after the crucifixion, when the destructive power of the empire is all too clear and recent in people’s minds.  The Good News of God includes death and resurrection, God’s transformative power in the face of real suffering, in the real world, right now! 

Then it says Jesus has been teaching about the kingdom.   In these “last minute instructions” preparing the disciples for their work, God’s kingdom is Jesus’ key message to them.

Jesus tells them to Wait and pray!  Before the Acts of the Apostles, before any Action, the Disciples are called to Wait and Pray.  I am always intrigued that “wait” and “hope” are same word in Hebrew, both from the root word for rope, a cord you hang on to!   All through Acts there is this refrain “Wait and Pray”.  Our call to discernment in times of rapid change:   “Wait and Pray”.  Some of you will recognize this as the key theme of our Diocesan book study in January (When the Church Stops Working).  Waiting is not a passive non-action but an active communal listening to God.  In this way the Gift of the God’s Spirit is renewed in the disciples each time they face a new situation.  How is this still true for us as the gathered community of disciples in our local church in 2024.  How do we “wait and pray”?   How are we continuously discerning where God’s Spirit is leading? Through worship, prayer, listening to scripture, to each other, listening to the needs of your neighbours, listening to the needs of our world…..

Jesus instructs the disciples to wait in Jerusalem.  Yes, it was joyful to be in the temple, but also remember this is a city of immediate danger for the disciples.  (on this day when the whole Anglican communion prays for Jerusalem)  I wonder what it means that the disciples were asked to wait and pray in the midst of the danger;  Jesus didn’t say escape to a safe place for discernment! 

In fact, by the time the book of Acts was written, the temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed.  The ongoing call of being the church remains even when the society and the past outward institutional forms change.  This gives me hope and encouragement!

No doubt these are anxious disciples Jesus is talking to.  Jesus is leaving them.  The Disciples question Jesus:   

 “ Wouldn’t this be a good time to restore the kingdom?”   We resonate with that question!   In our weariness in this time in the life of the world, climate threats, war, fear, wouldn’t this be a good time to restore the kingdom?  

We long for the completion of God’s kingdom, now! 

Jesus is clear, the timing belongs to God, leave that to God.  But in that uncertainty, Jesus still sends them out!

Jesus says, But!  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, .., and to the ends of the earth."

Jesus Sends them out.   With the Promise that they will be equipped and authorized.   “You will receive power.”   In the Greek, the word is “dunamos“.  In English, root of Dynamic, full of energy and effective action.   Dynamite!  You will be dynamite! 

Our mission hasn’t changed. What Jesus calls us to hasn’t changed. It is God’s mission, as Jesus gave it to those disciples to continue after the Ascension:  announcing God’s kingdom in action:   a ministry of reconciliation, freeing the captives, of feeding the hungry, sheltering the refugee, demonstrating good news to the poor.  A ministry of service and love. Much of this ministry is done locally.   We listen and interpret that mission in our own time and place.

Jesus sends out the disciples, instructs them to pray and wait for the power of the Holy Spirit, and then – He leaves them!   Taken up into heaven, the realm of God…   I figure he needed to leave to jolt them into being the Church.   No longer tied physically to one time and place, the presence of Jesus will now be available in the Spirit everywhere, including right here in your midst.

Two men in white robes appear – Angels?  messengers? A sure sign, mysterious sign, that God is present and active!

“Why are you looking up?“ they ask.   “This Jesus will come again”

Always a question for the church!  Why are you focusing on what is gone!  Why are you looking at what worked in the past?  Why are you looking at what has disappeared?  Get to work!   Jesus has sent you out.


Yes, we are called to worship and praise God, to sing and to study together, to pray and to wait.  God will inspire and equip us with courage to serve.  To not be looking up to find God, but to be out in the world serving God there.  

The Ascension, Jesus’ now with God, allows the space for the Holy Spirit filling them and setting them on fire!

In spite of all that is fearful and destructive in our world, we are a people of hope.

In the midst of all the anxiety and depression of our time, we are a people of hope.

In the face of all the violence and despair, we are a people of hope. 

The kingdom of God is in the hands of God, Jesus himself doesn’t know the timing, but trusts it to God.  We who pray daily for God’s kingdom to come, are to be shaped by that kingdom vision. 

“Wouldn’t this be a good time for the restoration of God’s kingdom? “

Yes, and it is here; the kingdom of God is in your midst.  Discover it.  It will be Dynamite!      Amen!