Sunday, May 08, 2005

Ascension and Mother's Day

In the name of Jesus; amen.

There is an African American Spiritual that goes like this:

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Long way from my home
Sometimes I wish I could fly
Like a bird up in the sky
Oh, sometimes I wish I could fly
Fly like a bird up in the sky
Sometimes I wish I could fly
Like a bird up in the sky
Closer to my home

Motherless children have a hard time
Motherless children have-a such a hard time
Motherless children have such a really hard time
A long way from home

Sometimes I feel like freedom is near
Sometimes I feel like freedom is here
Sometimes I feel like freedom is so near
But we're so far from home

As the disciples were watching, Jesus 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.”

My image of this story is a bit humorous. There is Jesus, resurrected, still trying to explain the ways of God to the disciples. But, like children on a long car ride, once again they ask the question: “Are we there yet?” And just as Jesus was telling them, “No, not yet” he is pulled up into the sky by a cloud, leaving them to stare blankly heavenward until two men (angels) come and stand with them.

“What ‘cha looking at?” The men / angels ask.
“Jesus.”
I picture the angels looking up at the clouds then shaking their heads. “Don’t you get it yet?” they ask, looking at the disciples, “God is, as God is… now go on, go back to work, he’ll be back when it’s time.”

The Ascension is an odd time in the history of the Church. Luke tells us at the very beginning of the Book of Acts that Jesus spent 40 days with the disciples after his resurrection before he is taken up into heaven. For the disciples it is the in-between time of Jesus being lifted up and the Holy Spirit coming down. We celebrated Ascension last Thursday and Pentecost, when we celebrate the coming of the Spirit, is next Sunday. Jesus leaves and 10 days later the Spirit shows up.

Now, just play along with me. Some of you are parents. Some of you are not, but maybe you remember being young yourself. And some of you are young right now.

What parent, in their right mind, leaves their children on their own for 10 whole days?

I remember finally being old enough for my parents to go away over night and leave my brother and me alone to fend for ourselves. And while I never threw any of “those” kinds of parties when my parents went away, I certainly attended some that were at the homes of friends when their parents went away and I can tell you things happened at those parties.

There was such potential for things to fall apart in that in-between time. The disciples were like motherless children left alone to mind themselves. There was no Jesus, no rabbi, no teacher to keep them on the path, explain things to them, remind them of the ways of God. Their faith was only 3 years old… they were barely out of their toddler years.

And the Spirit hadn’t yet arrived. Who would care for this bunch, make sure they ate their vegetables, or went to bed at a decent hour?

My mother would often joke that by the time I was 4 there was nothing left she could do for me. I had become my own person and she just had to trust that she had taught me what was best and that I had been paying attention.
The potential for disaster during that in-between time was great and yet Jesus turned out to be a good mother because the disciples learned and then implemented the lessons that Jesus had taught them because the moment that they were left on their own they turned to prayer.

“Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.”

They devoted themselves to prayer, constantly. In that time in-between, when they were left motherless… they turned to prayer.

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Long way from my home
Sometimes I wish I could fly
Like a bird up in the sky
Oh, sometimes I wish I could fly
Fly like a bird up in the sky
Sometimes I wish I could fly
Like a bird up in the sky
Closer to my home

We live in an in-between time. The Spirit has come to live with us, but we continue to wait for Christ to come again. And in this time of in-between, the potential for stuff we don’t want to happen happens. The potential for us to feel motherless, to yearn for home and safety and security, to wish for freedom that will take us beyond our fears and pains… oh the potential for that is so great.

But Jesus has taught us how to pray, to fold our hands and bow our heads and talk to God, to cry out to him like a child cries out to a parent. We should devote ourselves to this lesson like children devote themselves to their ABC’s and 123’s, not because we are alone, but because God is with us and prayer only makes that more apparent.

God, who is in heaven, is also God with us. We do not need to stare up into the sky and wonder where he has gone or when he is coming back. So, go on now, get back to the work of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. God is as God is and God is love.

Amen.

2 comments:

Sue said...

thanks cats. i needed to hear that word tonight. you're awesome!

RickinVa said...

That is some good stuff...

I've more recently bought into the notion that prayer is much more than being on one's knees or folding one's hands together or bowing one's head (although it's all those things), that it includes a state of mind where the acknowledgement of God's existence is a given AND that we are terribly in need of that existence(in Christ)...

This has, for me, led to a mindset that allow me to cope with that in-betweenness, with hope in Him who in fact exists, who in fact loves us, who in fact has died (and rose again) for us, despite those indications that might lead us to believe otherwise or as you've put it, "motherless".

'Nuff ramblin from this lost soul...

Thanks again Christine...

"and vivian followed."

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