Paying Attention to the Right Things
When Jesus 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 Ascension Day – the 40th day after the resurrection. On this day we celebrate the ascension of Jesus. It is the last day we light the paschal candle for the Easter season. It honors a puzzling story about the disciples seeing Jesus disappear into the clouds. As they watch, an angel chastises them for being so caught up in the moment (who can blame them, really?). The angel promises that Jesus will return and urges the disciples not to get to distracted by the amazement of it all. Instead, they should get back to the work that God has prepared for them to do here and now.
Often, if we are not careful, we can find ourselves distracted from the things that God wants us to be paying the most attention to. It takes discipline (that’s the root word for discipleship) and sometimes it takes an outside reminder (that’s what the angel provided for the disciples). Even though this is not complicated, this is also not a simple thing. It requires us to be attentive to the task.
Part of the story of the ascension is not just about Jesus leaving. It is also about his coming to us in a new way. Through the power of the Spirit, Christ tells us that rather than being limited to the physical person of Jesus, he will now be able to be present to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Jesus leaving is also about Jesus being present. You don’t have to travel to Israel to be with Jesus. You don’t have to transcend thousands of years to be with Jesus. Through the power of the Spirit, the Son of God is present with you always – wherever you find yourself. The key is no longer, “Is God here?” The key is, “Did I notice?”
This coming week we will begin a six-month journey of paying attention. Sacred Living by Grace Clunie will shape the journey but there will be a lot more to it than reading through a book together. In fact, the book is really just a framework for us to preach, teach, pray, discuss, gather, and explore together. With small groups forming and monthly special events to try a new thing, the chance to grow is being provided in some new and meaningful ways. The goal is to live out the urging of the angel in the ascension story that we be sure to pay attention to the right things and find the direction and support we need to do so.
If being more than religious is important to you – if you also want to be a better disciple and deepen your spirituality – then this is a wonderful chance to pay attention to God in your life and journey with others who wish to do the same.