This week Christians celebrate the Ascension, when the resurrected Jesus is taken away into heaven in advance of Pentecost. The disciples had been through a whirlwind of experiences, from Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion, and then, having thought he was lost to them, encountering him again and again in the weeks following the resurrection. And now, after blessing them Jesus leaves once again.
We, too, have been through a whirlwind of experiences these past 9 weeks. When the severity of the COVID-19 virus first became clear information and guidelines changed daily, sometimes more often. Though we first thought we might be regathering soon, it now appears that it will be much longer, and when we do it will certainly be different. No hymns. No coffee hour. No hugs. Masks all around.
Many are enduring separation from families, some work in high-risk jobs, others have no job and are wondering how to pay the bills. Students may be struggling to learn from home, and teachers struggling to teach them from afar. Graduations, weddings, baptisms, anniversary and birthday parties, and other events have been cancelled. Worst of all, many have lost family and friends to a virus with no cure.
If it feels to you that Jesus is somehow missing, or at the very least you may have lost sight of him, that’s understandable. It seems that overnight our faith lives have changed, our context upended, much of what we’ve come to know and believe challenged. Like the disciples following Jesus’ death and his ascension, we’ve encountered a very sudden and somewhat overwhelming shift in our religious practice.
Just like those disciples of Jesus, however, I believe that we are on the verge of something amazing. Each time they lost Jesus, each time he was suddenly gone from them, they encountered God’s power in transformational ways. Jesus died, and there was resurrection. Jesus ascended, and there was Pentecost. Each time there was trial, each time God seemed distant or absent, their experience of God increased.
These past nine weeks have challenged our courage, our patience, our resolve. These past nine weeks have come with mourning and crying, but also with moments of joy and profound examples of generosity. These past nine weeks have tested our faith; they may also, however, have prepared us for what God is doing next. Each time the disciples thought they had lost Jesus, God did something new. Keep watching.
Peace for the journey,