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Why God Makes Us Wait

00:00 / 06:54

9 May 2024

Ascension Day

Luke 24:44-53, Acts 1:1-11

And now as we consider this great moment of the ascension of Christ into heaven, may I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen. We just heard two very similar readings, one from the ends of the Gospel of Luke, one from the beginning of the book of Acts, both written by Luke, of course.


The premise is this, Christ is departing this world and leaving his disciples in it. He tells them that they will be his witnesses. They will be his witnesses to the nations, to Jerusalem, to Judea, and to the ends of the earth. Seems like very grand stuff, but of course he says, as we've just heard, the end of the Gospel of Luke, stay in the city.


until you are clothed with power from on high this is the moment that we find ourselves in liturgically speaking the great feast day of the ascension and then a gap a nine-day gap which we refer to as the novena between the ascension and the coming of the holy spirit


At Pentecost. Hence Christ telling the disciples, stay in the city, wait, remain there until the Holy Spirit comes upon you, until you are clothed with power from on high. Now, a question that arises, of course, is why? Why is there this gap?


Why is there this gap between Christ's ascension and Pentecost? Why should the disciples wait? Why do we so often have to wait and seek God, seek his power, seek his strength in our lives?


seems to be the case that God's plan is indeed for his word to go to all the nations, then as it is now, and for Christ's disciples to be his witnesses, for Christ's disciples to carry God's word to the nations. But we, just like they did, must wait and we must pray.


A lot of the time it seems like nothing much is going on. A lot of the time it feels as though we are weak and powerless. Friends, the reason for this is that the Lord beseeches us, the Lord bids us, the Lord calls us to wait and pray, to wait for him, to pray for his power. And this teaches us that we depend upon him.


We do not do these things in our own strength, but we depend upon God and we depend upon his power. In this nine day gap, in this novena, we wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. We pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit in the church and in our lives. But we must learn that the Holy Spirit, the presence of God, is not a commodity that we command.


He's not something like electricity that we can just switch on. But the Holy Spirit is a gift from God. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is the very presence of God, the very presence of Jesus Christ himself. And we cultivate an awareness of God. We cultivate an awareness of the Holy Spirit through relationship with Christ. And this is a good lesson for all of us.


It's a good lesson that when we are weary, when we are broken and longing for a move of God, we can seek him patiently and fervently and with expectation and humility.


And that longing, that waiting, is the lesson. Teaching us to draw closer to him. Teaching us to depend more upon him and less on ourselves. Sometimes we prefer not to learn such a lesson. But nevertheless, this is the lesson that the Lord seeks to teach us. One more observation on this. Look back to the very beginning. Chapter 1, verse 1. There's an interesting phrase. The...


writer Luke speaks of all that Jesus began to do. And that's what he's referring to as his gospel. Luke's gospel is about what Jesus began to do. And this book, the book of Acts, is then about the church. So Luke's gospel, what Jesus began to do, the book of Acts is about the church. Just observe the phrase there. I've written to you about all that Jesus began to do.


All that Jesus began to do, he's referring to the entirety of Jesus' ministry here on earth. He's talking about the incarnation. He's talking about the cross. He's talking about the resurrection. He's talking about the ascension. This is what Jesus began to do. The implication being that Jesus is continuing to work in this world. How is Jesus continuing to work in this world?


It is through the church. It's through us. We Christians, we followers of Christ. We are, if you like, an extension, a continuation of the incarnation. And this is indeed one of the meanings of the ascension. Christ, one man, divine, fully human, but one man in one place.


He ascends to heaven. He sends the Holy Spirit upon his church. And he bids us go out into the world as his presence. Now it's not just one man, though divine, on the earth. It's God's entire church together, carrying out the ministry of Jesus, carrying out the acts of Jesus in this earth. A continuation of the incarnation. This is what we are called to.


So as we find ourselves in this gap, as we find ourselves with this great mission to proclaim the word of God, to be the presence of Christ in this world, let us nevertheless recognise our dependency upon the power of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray earnestly and continually, particularly in these nine days as we wait for Pentecost.


Let us pray. Come, Holy Spirit. Amen.

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