My sermon this morning was on Christ’s ascension to heaven several weeks after his resurrection (Acts 1:1-11). I mostly talked about Christ’s physical separation from us and what we can learn from that. I think we forget sometimes what a roller coaster it must have been for Christ’s friends and family to see him die, endure that physical separation, see him come back, feel that joy, and then endure that physical separation again when he departed again.
A theme of my sermon was that, no matter our situation, we can and should follow Christ’s example and make efforts to have a positive impact on people even when we are physically apart from them. Sometimes that physical separation is by choice and sometimes it is not. Christ has a positive impact on people even when physically apart from them, in part, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in and among us.
We don’t have the ability to send the Holy Spirit to people ourselves, at least in that same way, but we do have the ability to employ and direct the fruits of the Spirit that are supposed to be present in and come from us Christians — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – towards others through our actions, even to people from which we are physically separated. (Galatians 5:22-23)
We can do this in lots of ways. We can reach out, show up, be present, respect, listen, talk to, engage, set a good example, try to inspire, make room for others’ mistakes, treat with grace, give liberty, donate, say a kind word, bear people’s burdens, look out for the marginalized, forgive, work against oppression, encourage, ….
Learning from Christ’s example and teachings can be particularly meaningful, as he took special care to go to and encourage care for the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor, the prisoner, the foreigner, those considered sinners, etc. But realizing that our sphere of influence includes those who are separated from us physically is my main point here.
I’ve always found Christ’s physical departure after his resurrection a bit puzzling. Why go away? Wouldn’t it have been better to stay? Yes, I know the scripture about how he goes to prepare a place for me in heaven, etc., but it looks like his physical separation wouldn’t be necessary (put those angels to work, c’mon).
Maybe part of the reason was to set an example of care despite physical separation.
The picture is one I took of the sky in January 2017 while standing on the traditional spot of Christ’s ascension in the Holy Land, beside the Chapel of the Ascension.
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