Head In The Clouds - 5/6/18

HEAD IN THE CLOUDS? 05 06 2018

Luke 24: 44-53

I have a tendency to daydream. … It’s something I’ve done since I was very
young, probably longer than I remember. … I remember a Boy Scout Softball
game when the winning hit from the other team rolled past me in right field, …
while my mind was somewhere in the middle of toy soldiers.
In elementary school it was a mistake to seat me by the windows where I could see
the different shapes of the clouds and pretend they were rockets, tanks, dogs,
airplanes or whatever; … that is if the teacher ever wanted me to know what was
going on in the class.
It’s something I still do, even to this day; … whether staring out the window of my
office when I’m trying to write a sermon … or gazing off into space when I’m
tired, my mind often wanders. … If anyone happens to be around, … they might
find themselves waving their hand in front of my face or saying; … “Get your
head out of the clouds!”
For centuries, … artists have made great efforts to depict the Ascension of our Lord
in paintings. … Some of those paintings have been rather comical, with images of
Jesus’ feet dangling from beneath a mass of clouds. … In all of those paintings, the
disciples are looking up; … one or two of them might have even been thinking to
themselves; … “Come on, Jesus, get your head out of the clouds!”
Truth –be-known, … Jesus’ ascension was about much more than His vertical
locomotion to the heavens! … Out of the ten verses we read this morning, …
only half of one tells us about Jesus going up into heaven. … The importance of
the Ascension lies in the words that Jesus says to His disciples before He goes
anywhere. … He knows that if anyone needs grounding, … it’s them.
Jesus is very much aware that if there’s anyone that needs to get their heads out of
the clouds, … it’s the disciples.
After His Resurrection, … Jesus spent 40 days with His disciples … and after
those 40 days, the disciples were starting to get a little restless. … They were
wondering what was going to happen now that Christ had been resurrected, so they
started asking questions. … They wanted to know what the next step was. …
They were wondering when Jesus the Messiah would restore the kingdom of Israel
as God had always promised His people He would do. …
So, as Jesus prepares to ascend to Heaven, … He gives the disciples some
direction. …

Our reading this morning tells us that: … “[Jesus] opened their minds to
understand the Scriptures. 46  He also said to them, “This is what is written: The
Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47  and repentance for
forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning
at Jerusalem. 48  You are witnesses of these things.”
As the disciples were waiting for Jesus to do something great, … He pointed right
back and them and said … it was their turn.
He said, “You are witnesses.” … and that includes us; … that incorporates where
we are right this minute! … Right here in Mount Pleasant, Texas! …
This Church, … this congregation, … is included in Jesus’ commission!
We are to be God’s witnesses right here!
The promise of the Holy Spirit, … the “empowered from on high” … as Jesus
calls it, … is a promise for this community … a promise for this time …
and a promise for this Church!
Just when the disciples were busying themselves with wonder about what would
happen next, … when it would have been so easy for them to get distracted by all
that was going on around them, … when they could have spent the next several
hours with their heads in the clouds wondering where exactly Jesus disappeared to,
… Jesus’ words bring them … and us, … back down to earth again!
“Get your head out of the clouds! You’ve got work to do!”
The terrible temptation that disciples of Jesus face is that it is so easy to get lazy
thinking that Christ will sort everything out when He returns. … We even go to
great lengths predicting when exactly Christ will return; … perhaps so we don’t
have to do any “real” work!
It’s hard to believe it was just a few years ago that the head of …The Family
Radio Broadcasting Network, … Harold Camping, … predicted with the media of
2,000 billboards worldwide, … that on May 21, 2011 … the righteous, …
which totaled 3 percent of humanity, … was to be whisked away to Heaven, …
leaving the rest of us to weather five months of extreme natural disasters until
October 21, 2011, … whereupon God was to destroy the entire universe and
everyone in it.
Camping claimed to have “infallible, absolute proof” … that this was going to
happen … and that there was no point in making plans for Memorial Day
Weekend. … Sadly (or better yet, … STUDIDLY), … quite a number of people
bought into it, … selling their possessions and paying big money for billboards.
Of course, … predicting exactly when Christ will return is nothing new.

For example, … Preacher Samuel S. Snow predicted Jesus would return on
October 22, 1844. … Thousands of people gave away all their possessions, …
only to be surprised when the world did not end. … That day came to be known as
“The Great Disappointment.”
In 1806 news of Christ’s return came by means of a hen in Leeds, England,
who had been laying eggs that bore the message: … “Christ is coming.”
Keeping with the theme, … the chicken was named, …
The Prophet Hen of Leeds.
Apparently, … great numbers of people came to visit the spot where this hen was
laying these eggs. … Many people suddenly became extremely religious as they
prayed fervently and repented of their evil ways … but, as it is recorded, …
“some gentlemen, hearing of the matter, went one fine morning and caught the hen
in the act of laying one of her miraculous eggs. Close by was a young lad
inscribing the words on the egg with a pen and ink.”
Moving forward in history, … in his 1996 book The Planet Earth 2000 A.D., …
Hal Lindsey, … who has been making big money predicting the end of the world
since his 1970 best-selling book, … The Late, Great Planet Earth, … wrote that
Christians should not make any plans after the year 2000 … and Pat Robertson
said on a broadcast of The 700 Club; … “I guarantee you by October or
November of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world!”
Robertson later acknowledged; … “I have a relatively good track record,” …
But … “sometimes I miss.”
Jesus knew the disciples’ concerns. … Jesus knew they would watch in wonder as
He ascended into Heaven and then begin to worry about when He would return in
final glory.
So He had one last conversation with them: … “This is what is written: The
Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47  and repentance for
forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning
at Jerusalem. 48  You are witnesses of these things.”
In a legal sense, … a witness is a person who, … because of some experience they
have had or something they have seen, … is in a unique position to tell the truth
about some important matter … and Jesus commissions His disciples to witness to
God’s mighty acts in history, … to proclaim Christ’s Good News in an empire that
has crucified good news.
They’ve been called into a proverbial courtroom to witness about Jesus Christ
amid the competing testimonies, … testimonies that promise peace through
violence, … fulfillment through wealth … and power through exploitation!
Yet they aren’t to do this on their own; … they are only to do this through the
power and the prompting of the Holy Spirit living inside them.

Luke’s Gospel makes it clear that the Holy Spirit’s work is made manifest in the
life of Jesus Christ. …
Jesus gave an outline of the Holy Spirit’s work in Luke Chapter 4 when Jesus read
from the scroll: … “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the
captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19  to proclaim
the year of the Lord’s favor” … and here, … at the end of Luke’s Gospel, …
Jesus promises that same Spirit of God to come upon us!
Jesus is no longer physically here to heal the sick and to feed the hungry, …
so the mission of Jesus now falls to the disciples.
Jesus tells his disciples, immediately before He … “left them and was carried up
into heaven”, … that it is their job to take His message global; … “ proclaimed in
His name to all the nations.”
This is the mission of the Church, of which each of us is a part. … Hearing this can
be staggering, … even frightening. … Bearing witness to Christ in a world that
suffers is overwhelming. … How can our community, … let alone the world, …
ever be free from poverty and hunger?; … but that’s exactly what Jesus is
preparing His disciples for; … it’s as if He anticipated their question: …
“How will we do this, Lord?” … when He said, “And look, I am sending you what
My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on
high.”
Christ’s disciples have a clear mission, … He’s given us the power of the Holy
Spirit … and Christ tells us to get going!
A prayer that is attributed to Teresa of Avila goes like this: … “God of love, help
us to remember that Christ has no body now on earth but ours, no hands but ours,
no feet but ours. Ours are the eyes to see the needs of the world. Ours are the
hands with which to bless everyone now. Ours are the feet with which [Jesus] is to
go about doing good.”
We are to be the hands, … the feet, … the eyes … and the voice of Christ … as we
reach out to a lost, … broken … and dying world.
There is no bigger job to be done; … there is no more important commission in all
the world … and there is no greater privilege to which we can be called!
It would be a strange sight to see a man ascending toward the heavens … and it can
be more than intimidating to think about telling a scared and unbelieving world
about the love and mercy of God which defies even the greatest powers …
but we need to get our heads out of the clouds, … we need to stop wondering and
worrying because events seem to not be looking up.
Like those disciples so many centuries ago, … we are to go from this place with
joy; … worshipping, praising, and preaching good news to the poor, … release for
the captives, … recovery of sight to the blind … and liberation to the oppressed!
We are to do this here in Mount Pleasant, … in Texas, … in all of the United
States … and to the ends of the earth.
May we indeed be witnesses to all nations, … beginning right here!
AMEN