Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

Up, Up, and Away

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

May 12th:

Up, Up, and Away
May 12, 2013   (Ascension Sunday)
Potsdam
Call:    John 14: 25-29
Text:    Acts 1: 1-11
Read: W&S # 35


I find myself fascinated with ranking things..

I am intrigued by the various rankings of the Presidents
   Washington, Lincoln, and the Roosevelts at or near the top
   And Harding, Pierce, and Buchanan at or near the bottom

   Others like Eisenhower and Truman have moved up across the years while Jackson has experienced a slide downwards.

I pay attention to
the official rankings in college football and basketball
the seedings in the basketball and lacrosse tournaments
and   with one glaring exception, I love to talk about whether someone belongs in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

That one exception occurred on Hall of Fame weekend 2001
   I was working at the Farmers Museum
      Which like the HOF is in Cooperstown
   While working, I encountered a couple from Minnesota
who had come to for the induction of Kirby Puckett.
   We chatted for a few minutes
      And they said that they would be back next year
   Puzzled, I inquired as to why and they responded,
"We think the veteran's committee will finally elect Tony Oliva."

Always one with enthusiastic opinions on such subjects
   I started to form the words to express my thoughts
      That although Tony was an outstanding ballplayer,
      I wasn't convinced he was a Hall of Famer

As I selected my words, another gentleman approached
   My conversation partners spoke before I could,
      "Here is Tony now."

I gulped
   Told Tony that I was honored to meet him
   And after saying good bye, I walked the museum's church
      And expressed my gratitude to God
      For the fact that my thoughts never left my mouth.

My brother and his son in Florida
   Remain convinced to this day, that the delay in my expressing myself
      Was one of God's greatest miracles.

I thought that I had learned from that experience.

But this weekend - nearly a dozen years later -
I found myself grumbling about how little respect the story of the ascension gets from people
   clergy as well as laity

So I started to make my own list of the NT scriptures
   That - in my pinion - every Christian should know.

Like the number of wonders of the ancient world    I found seven.

My "Seven Essential New Testament Scriptures" are:

Easter:     Christ's resurrection
Christmas:     Christ's birth
Pentecost:     The coming of the HS and birth of the church
Great Cmndmnt: Love God and love your neighbor
Stoning of Stephen: which dispersed Christ's followers
Conversion of Paul: the man who took the word to the gentiles.

AND,  of course,
   The ascension of Christ
      When, just before he ascended into Heaven
Jesus charged us and Jesus commissioned us
to take His story and His love all over the world.

So far, so good.
   But then to show the importance of the ascension
      I started to rank the seven.

As I argued with myself about whether the ascension story should be number 3, number 4, or number 5,
   It hit me
   It hit me like a Leroy Jethro Gibbs head slap

These seven scriptures are essential
   Which means that we must know them

If they are essential,  If we must know them,
Why in the world would any of them need rankings
   To demonstrate their importance.

And like after my delay in expressing myself a dozen years ago,
   I paused and gave thanks to God for again restraining a Jim Barnes attempt to express himself.
   Bob and Philip would label that "a second miracle."

Now, let's turn to the story that I have labeled "essential."
[Acts 1: 1-11]
We can see this story as Jesus
   Going up, up, and away
Waving good bye to his followers on the ground below

We can see it as a simple Heart breaking parting story
   Like a the train taking off from the station
      Carrying someone whom we love

We can see it as an adventure
   Like Lindberg's 1927 flight in the Spirit of St. Louis
   And wonder what it means

But if we do, we will think me a fool for including this story in my
   "Magnificent Seven" NT scriptures.

For the ascension of Christ
Is not a simple parting or even a great adventure
It is    an earth shattering event
   A mind blowing experience
And   a life changing happening.

For the disciples it was a detour that had far more impact
   Than Paul's being called to Macedonia
   When he wanted to go to Asia.

For when they gathered with him on the day of ascension
They knew something important was going to happen
They thought,  they dreamed,  they hoped,
that it might be when Christ would finally restore the kingdom

But Jesus dashed those hopes by telling them
that it was not for them to know when that would happen

And instead       he gave them a job to do
And then, as they watched him ascend, the disciples
who had mourned his death
and   who had been awed and moved by his resurrection

   were left alone, looking up
   almost as if they expected him to turn around
      and come back to take care of them
         like a gifted and loving human being.

He didn't   and this event was so important
   That Luke began his book on the church with this story

For Luke knew that beginning with this story,
things had become different - dramatically different
   He knew that a sequel to his gospel was now required
   Thus that second book begins
      With this story of the ascension of the Christ
      And the commissioning of the disciples.

If anyone thinks that I overvalue this story
   When I include it among my seven essential NT scriptures
Talk to Luke about it.

You see, we read Luke's first book and in it we saw
   Jesus call his disciples
   And prepare them to be his servants
      First,      for three years of ministry
      Then, with his death and resurrection
   And finally,   for an additional forty days
      As a resurrected person.

Now, however
the disciples were to be the teachers instead of the students
they were to be His apostles, representatives, and envoys
   not mentees learning from being with, and listening to, Him
That, my friends, is one incredible change!

Among the people to whom the "disciples-turned-apostles" were to witness
   Were the people who would witness to the next generation
      And pass that duty to witness to them
   Right on down to
those who witnessed to  those who witnessed to us.

As recently as last week we proclaimed in our communion ritual
that Christ has risen and that Christ will come again
   Just as the angels told the disciples in our story

But between Christ's rising and Christ's returning
there is a meantime
You and I live in that meantime
   And you and I have to be Christ's witnesses during our portion of it.

We don't have any more important job to do.

On the days when we find ourselves gawking instead of witnessing
We need to recall what the angels told the disciples
   But, I think with an extra sentence

   "Why are you looking up, Christ will return."
   "Now, you get ready to do what he told you to do."

[pause]  Let's get ready.
         And witness to the others
         Who share this meantime with us.