Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Up - To Us

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June 1:

Call:    1 Peter 5: 6-11
Text:    Acts 1: 6-14
Read: Ascension (323)
Psalm:   Psalm 68: 1-10, 32-35
Closing: John 17: 1, 6-11

            Up - To Us

It is that time of the year again.

I guess that you could call it:  "Jim Barnes Ranting Season."

For every year,, when we come to the sixth Sunday after Easter
   I rant and I rave.

I rant about how little respect that the Ascension is given
   By the church
   By my colleagues
   By parishioners and anyone else
who happens to drop into a sanctuary on the sixth Sunday after Easter
finds me in the pulpit
and wonders, "What is Ascension Sunday?"

But I don't only rant.  I also rave
I rave   about how significant a day it is

For to me, The Ascension was a transformative moment in Christianity

Look at where it fits in:
Christ was born in humble circumstances

At about age 30 he started his ministry in Galilee

For about three years
he wandered
and he healed
and he preached
      A lesson of love and forgiveness,
And he both taught and demonstrated
a relationship with God
based on a grace given through those concepts
rather than earned by a rigid obedience to the law

This lesson upset and threatened the powers that were
So they conspired and connived
to have him sentenced to death by crucifixion

That sentence was imposed by a reluctant, but weak Roman proconsul
   Who found no fault
But bowed to the conspirators' demands anyway.

[An aside: obviously Pilate was born too early to hear last Sunday's message
   About doing what is right even when we know we might suffer consequences for doing so.]

Christ's followers were devastated and adrift
   They were distressed and depressed
   They were discouraged, anxious, and hopeless

But on the third day he rose

He appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden
He appeared to Cleopas at the meal in Emmaus
He appeared to the disciples in the upper room two straight weeks
He appeared to them again beside the sea in which they were fishing

Once again: All seemed so good.
Their despair had been replaced by hope.

He was again in their lives
And he was there for forty days.

During that time
Their lives were again comfortable and directed and purposeful.

And then came today
   Or the day that we celebrate today

From Acts 1: 6-14

Now I wasn't there that day,
   But I have no trouble imagining how the disciples must have felt.

We can compare    their feelings of loss to
`Unexpectedly losing a loved one after he/she has rallied and apparently recovered from a disease.

We can describe   their reactions as they continued to look skyward
   As absolute and pure bewilderment.

We can relate to the anger they must have had toward God
   For having put them through the process of losing Jesus
      Not just on Good Friday
         When the anger
could be directed at Pilate and the Jewish leadership
   (although Jesus' self sacrificing attitude was a significant part of that death as well)

      But now for a second time   - in a month and a half.
         And this time, with no one else to blame

I can hear them asking
   "Why did you bother to bring him back
      Just to take him away again?"

And once again, as they experienced this
   They had to have felt both
      A lack of direction  And   a lack of hope.

It is my hope that
as Peter, John, James, and Andrew prayed,
as Philip, Thomas, Batholomew, and Matthew prayed.
   as James, son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas, son of James prayed.
   As they all prayed with the women, including Mary, his mother and his brothers
      That it began to dawn on them
that they had both direction and hope.

For they had received both in Christ's words to them.
In giving them direction, Christ told them what to do
   And what they were to do was different

They were no longer to be students,
they were to be teachers of what he had taught them.

They were no longer to be mere observers,
they were to be witnesses of what they had seen, heard, and felt.

They were no longer to confine themselves
to the area around Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria
They were to expand to the ends of the earth.

In other words he said to them,
   "I have trained you to do my work.
      I trained you  before my death
      I trained you  after my resurrection.
   NOW, it is time for you to go out and do that work."

Their lives and their purpose had been changed

I wonder whether this scared them even more than losing him?
I wonder if the challenge of this task or assignment intimidated them
   more powerfully,  than returning to their old (pre-Jesus) lives

I am sure they protested that they would be unable to fulfill
the daunting task he assigned to them.

And this is where the hope comes in,
   For Jesus made it clear that he was not leaving them alone
      For he did more than give them a task to do
      He promised them help in doing that task when he said,
         "You will receive power
         When the Holy Spirit has come upon you."

You and I know what the disciples accomplished
after that Holy Spirit came upon them

Hearkening back to last week
   We also know how they suffered
in trying to fulfill his charge
despite the presence of the Holy Spirit

But then again, Jesus himself suffered too.

However, today, we come here
   Not to applaud, celebrate, or give thanks for
The ways the lives of those in the upper room were transformed.

No!   We come here today to be reminded
      That we are the successors to those disciples
      That we have the same charge as they did
   And   That we have the same hope and the same promise.

For Christ and His angels were talking to us
   As well as to those in the upper room

That means that,
You and I can spend our time
looking up into the sky and saying "WOW!"
or we can get to work to do the job he left  up to us.