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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sermon: Keep Both in Mind

Interim Pastor Hollie Holt-Woehl
The Ascension of Our Lord
Acts 1:1-11

Growing up on a farm I learned to drive a tractor at a young age. I enjoyed driving the tractor. I drove the tractor while pulling the bailer (to bail hay), the disk (to prepare the fields for planting), and the mowing (to mow the sod field) for not only did we raise alpha, corn and beans but we also raised grass to be sold for sod. By the time I was twelve I was pretty good at my jobs. One day as we were driving to town, I noticed some of the neighboring farmers had disked their fields diagonally. I thought it looked really cool so I asked my dad how they did it. He told me that in order to do the diagonal you needed to pick a spot diagonally across the field, and drive toward it.

I was excited to use this new technique. Finally the day arrived, I positioned the tractor with the mower at one corner of the field, picked my spot, the tall corner fence post across the field, then I began driving toward it pulling the mower. I intently focused on that spot for a few minutes, then I noticed a blue heron fly out of the creek to my right. After watching it for a second or two my eyes returned to the tall corner fence post, then I noticed the Anderson’s were out in their field to my left, so I watched them for a second or two, once again my eyes returned to the tall corner fence post. When I finally reached the destination, I was eager to turn around and see the perfect diagonal I cut across the field. I turned to look and I saw the most crooked diagonal you ever did see, I was so bummed. It looked awful. I finished up mowing the field trying to correct that awful blunder but there wasn’t much I could do.

That evening after dad got home from work I told him about my blunder and asked him what went wrong. He asked the appropriate questions, did you pick a spot? Yes, I told him. Did you follow toward it? Yes. Did you look at anything else? No, well yes there were a couple of things but I didn’t look away for that long I thought. “Well Hollie,” he said, “you have to keep both the end point and the surroundings in mind when you are doing this. The trick is to keep both in mind while moving forward.”

In the story of Jesus’ ascension in the book of Acts, Jesus gives one final instruction. He tells the disciples not to leave Jerusalem for they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. And when they receive the Holy Spirit they will be his witnesses from Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, to the ends of the earth. When Jesus finishes saying these words, he was lifted up before the disciples eyes and than a cloud too him out of their sight. The disciples want to keep looking for Jesus in the sky. As they see him go they long for his presence. But two men in white robes appear beside them and ask them, “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up form you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” In other words, “stop gazing up toward heaven your work is to wait for the Holy Spirit and then be Jesus’ witnesses on the earth.” Yes, it is important to look up to Jesus, but it is also important to look around you, you need to keep both in mind.

The writer of Ephesians states that Jesus is seated in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:20). Then in Ephesians 2:6 we learn that God has raised us up with Christ and we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. What does this mean for us to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places?

A greeting card at a Christian book store had these words on the outside, “Keep looking down.” That’s odd, we usually say, “Keep looking up?” Yes, that is the phrase but on that card the direction was changed, “Keep looking down.” On the inside of the card were the words, “You are seated with Christ in the heavenlies.”

Because of Jesus’ ascension we have a different perspective, we look at things not from our eyes or our perspective, but from the eyes of Christ Jesus whose grace, forgiveness, and love gives us new eyes for living and new eyes for others. We are not so heavenly minded we are no earthly good, nor are we so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good. We need to keep both in mind and keep moving forward. The heavenly perspective keeps engaging in earthly matters, the earthly perspective keeps reminding us to be Jesus’ witnesses.

What does it mean for us to be named after the place (the Mount of Olives) where Jesus ascended? I think it means we look to God in worship and to our neighbor in service, we keep both in mind. We need to keep both in mind while moving forward to be Christ’s witnesses in this place, in the street, in our homes, in our workplaces, and to the ends of the earth.

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