Dear GCI Family and Friends,
What’s so special about Thursday, May 13, 2021? It is certainly special for Susan and me—it commemorates 37 years of married life. Allow me to thank her for being such a wonderful life partner. Not only has she been a treasure to me, but she has also been a terrific mother, and her greatest joy is being “Gigi” (grandmother) to four precious grandchildren. Happy anniversary sweetheart!
Now what is even greater about Thursday, May 13, 2021 is that we celebrate along with the Christian community the ascension of our Lord and Savior. Forty days after his resurrection on Easter morning, Jesus appeared to his disciples on the Mount of Olives. Knowing this was the day he would leave the earth, he gave parting words to the men who were to become the Apostolic Fathers who would launch the church.
- The coming of the Spirit
Acts 1:8a But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…
These men would recall the words from the upper room when Jesus told them that it was good for him to go away so the Spirit of truth would come (which was evident in a powerful way on the Day of Pentecost) (See John 16:7-16.) It was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that not only inspired the Pentecost sermon of Peter, but the Spirit also transformed and empowered the person we know as Peter from disciple to Apostle (consider that less than 50 days earlier, he was denying Jesus).
What would the 3,000 men and women who showed up in Jerusalem 10 days after Christ’s ascension to celebrate Pentecost have expected? I submit that none of them would in their wildest dreams guessed that their hearts would be pricked by the Holy Spirit, leading them to accept Jesus and commit in the waters of baptism. These Jewish pilgrims had no expectation or clue that they would become the founding members of the Christian church.
- The sending of Jesus
Acts 1:8b …and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
It is almost stupefying to hear the looming question the disciples posed to Jesus, “Lord is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” It is quite revealing to see the response of Jesus when he made it clear this stage of God’s plan is secure with his heavenly Father, and then to express to them the stage they are to be a part of. Their calling is to testify about Jesus in their city, their region, their country and their world.
Jesus re-centered their focus with his answer, and I bet if the disciples could receive a “Mulligan” (a do-over), their question to Jesus would have been totally different.
- Physically gone yet present by the Spirit
Acts 1:9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
The book of “Acts” includes the stories of Jesus through the Spirit acting through his people the church. The section of Acts 2:42-47 is a wonderful list of the actions of those people who were transformed by the indwelling of the Spirit on Pentecost. It shows us an ideal picture of what community in the church can be when a group of people are yielded to the Spirit.
Going back to my marriage 37 years ago in Del Mar gardens in Pasadena, CA (the gardens have been replaced with high-end condominiums), Susan and I exchanged wedding vows and began our lives together. At the stage in the wedding where I was granted permission to kiss my bride, there were several mylar, helium-filled balloons released. One balloon was a giant heart.
Seeing the balloons wafting up into the sky and clouds and eventually out of sight was a very small similarity to what the disciples experienced as they watched Jesus ascend. He went up and up until he was out of sight. As they were gazing upward, an angel encouraged them by saying that as Jesus has ascended, he will one day descend and return to us.
This is the hope we hold on to. This promise enables us to conclude the thoughts of Ascension Day with the hope-filled words “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Anxious for the day,