Grace and Peace to you.
They asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
The disciples have lost their Lord and received him again, and now they look to a new and bright future. They don’t see that he is about to leave them again, this time for good. They grasp at their dreams for their nation, expressing grief before they are even grieving. But Jesus turns their gaze otherwise. Their calling is to something larger than their own lives, something that extends from where they are to the ends of the earth. The power in their lives will be neither personal comfort nor a political fix, but the elusive, invisible wind power of love among them. And they will receive this calling and power in a vessel of grief and disorientation as Jesus departs from them once more.
Typically God’s grace comes to us through loss. Often those who bear witness to the Good News are escaped Hebrew slaves pining for the ease of Egypt, Ruth bereaved in a foreign land, a prophet reflecting on exile, a family torn apart by their son’s selfishness, disciples stunned on a windswept hillside. Even our own resurrection comes at the cost of losing our lives— if we are lucky, over and over. For it is in our fragility and bewilderment that we discover God’s abiding presence, solid and life-giving. Christ ascending to reign over all Creation, leaves our side. The glory to which we are witnesses is not some great triumph but the loss and majesty of life as it is, and the eternal presence of love, even in absence. To this, even in our not knowing, we are witnesses.
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