Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy Ascension Day!

It is too bad that many of us do not live in Europe, especially on a day like this.  Many Europeans, French citizens especially, have religious days off as holidays even if they do not plan to have any religious activity on those days.  Today is Ascension Day which comes ten days before Pentecost (also recognized as a holiday in Europe).  It marks the day when Jesus ascended into the clouds never to be seen in human flesh again by human beings.  The story is recorded in Acts 1 where Jesus takes the disciples onto the mountain and gives them their last instructions before he rises into the air and vanishes from sight.  "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."  (Acts 1:8)  Then he was gone and the disciples were left to fend for themselves.  He gave them a job to do, though, before he left them. 

The task to complete was that they were to be "witnesses" to all of the world as they knew it in their day.  The scope of their sharing their story was to be to those who lived around them first of all (Jerusalem) and then to those who were in the neighboring towns in the province of Judea, and to people they really did not care to associate with (Samaria), and finally to the ends of the earth (the far reaches of the Roman Empire--that was all the earth they knew.)  Their task was to tell the story of Jesus to all those who lived in these areas because they had known Jesus in his bodily form and knew the stories about his teachings and the many works he had done.  They were first hand witnesses to the life of Jesus and only they could truly tell what he had done and taught.

So, here we are on Ascension Day remembering the story of the ascension of Jesus and what his last words were to his followers before he went away.  His words to them may remind us that we also are witnesses to all of our world and those who live in it.  How do we witness to our faith and to what is important to our lives because our faith has helped to inform and form us?  Do we use words or do our very lives speak about what we think in our lives that have in some way been shaped by the faith we hold and share?  Is it because of our faith that we live as we do and that our faith experience is responsible in part for our being who we are? 

Faith is a very personal thing to most people.  Very few people appreciate others who use "in your face" methods of "witnessing" to others about their religious views.  Most people appreciate a quiet understanding of how God has been involved in the lives of religious persons.  When people are overtly demonstrative concerning their religious views, it often makes others feel uncomfortable and may have the opposite effect that the disciple intended.  Faith is most often demonstrated by the way we relate to others making them feel welcomed and loved even as Jesus made others feel the love of God at work in his life. 

Go into all the world.....your world...and let others know that God loves them and that God wants them to love others....and use words if you must. 

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