Luke 24:44-53 (Ascension Sunday)
Have you ever had one of those “Eureka” moments? You know when something all of a sudden hits you and it makes complete sense and without warning you go into an “ah ha!” When I was 12 years old I remember having one of these moments. It was my first time to Disney World and I was all excited. We were taking a tour through the MGM studios there and we past a bunch props from movies. As we past the tour guide called out a few ones that everyone would know. Well one stuck out to me and I couldn’t remember where I had seen it. It was a silver tear dropped shaped mound of metal. Then our tour guide said, “to your right is the ship from the popular movie, Flight of the Navigator. Once he mentioned it, without warning words just flew out of my mouth. Before I could stop them, I said really loud, That’s right! I know it doesn’t seem like much but for a 12 year old, it was embarrassing because everyone turned and looked at me and laughed. I couldn’t help it, all the connections in my mind worked and words just flew out as a reaction.
This happens to us all the time. I remember people during the SATs all of a sudden going…Yeah! I hope that when people go Humm during a sermon that is what is happening too, and not that they are enjoying the candy they are eating. We all have these eureka moments and they shouldn’t be embarrassing. They should be celebrated because for that moment we are not in control. Our mind has made a connection and our bodies and soul react uncontrollably. It is a truly wonderful and miraculous part of being human.
There is an eureka moment in this scripture passage today. There is a place when the disciples finally get it. They sit back and go eureka, I got it. Finally, after holding this gift for the last couple of weeks, they are able to opened it and they see the what, why, how and who they have been wondering about. They, the disciples, for the first time get it and they uncontrollably go into worship as a result. You see they opened this gift finally. They opened it and when they did they had an “Ah Ha” moment. Each of us has the same gift, we just have to allow ourselves to open it in order for all the pieces of the puzzle all come together.
This doesn’t happen naturally though. The disciples didn’t collectively look at the evidence in front of them and piece the puzzle together. Even though they were standing there with the Risen Lord, the one they had watched be put to death. Jesus told them over and over again what was going to happen and why. The disciples listened but they didn’t get it. In the last moments Christ has on this earth, the scriptures say, he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Christ helped them finally see what was meant by all the parables. All the references to the Old Testament. All the healings, questions and miracles. Everything the disciples had witnessed in the last three years finally made sense. They came to the realization of why Christ died, was buried and on the third day rose again.
Although they had witnessed the resurrection they still didn’t get it. They saw the gift right in front of them and they never opened it. What is this gift though, what do we all have but only few actually open? This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. That is the gift. The gift is the resurrection and it all makes sense now. Christ came to earth to die for our sins and he defeated death so we can be in the presence of God once again. And since I know this now that I opened the gift, I need to share it with the rest of the world. ‘Eureka!!!!’
We have to share this with the rest of the world? We can’t just keep this gift to ourselves? Now that we understand what has happened and why, we can’t just sit back and prop up our feet? The scripture says that they were witnesses of these things. They had to be the witnesses to tell the rest of the world. This means that for the disciples, for us now, this was the moment when our work began.
Today is Ascension Sunday and on this day we celebrate the fact that Jesus left this world and went to be with his Father. This is a celebration because of what he left behind. He lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Jesus’ last two actions on this earth were to open up the scriptures to the disciples and blesses them. Jesus doesn’t bless them and then ascend; he continues to bless them as he travels from this world to the next. It is a continual motion that we can still today.
We follow Christ example each week we come to worship. Each week there is a dismissal with a blessing, anyone know what we usually call it? The Benediction. The Book of Worship says the dismissal with blessing or the benediction is to send people into ministry with the Lord’s blessings (p.15). The Dismissal with Blessing, often called the Benediction, is given by the pastor, facing the people. It is addressed to the people, not to God, and the pastor and people appropriately look at each other as it is given. For this reason, it should be given from the front, not the back, of the sanctuary. (p.31) The point of me saying the benediction is to give you energy, motivation, and a blessing to go out and do the work of God.
At my last appointment as a youth minister, one of our yearly events was raising money and walking in the Charlotte CROP Walk, one of the largest in the nation. It is a 10K walk, or 6.2 miles. It is not a REAL long walk, but about mile 5 you get tired. But what was remarkable was to watch the people I walked with. Alycia, another youth worker, Joe, and I all walked together. Some of the youth took off while others decided that they would keep us company on our journey as well. As I basked in the joy that is walking 6.2 miles with 14 year old boys what was fascinating to me was that they probably walked around 10 miles that day. What would happen is the two boys would be bugging, I mean interacting with Joe. While they were doing that Alycia and I would slip back into the crowd. Well then they would realize we were missing and RUN, yes run back to “interact” with us. They ran back and forth the whole 6 miles and to tell you the truth it looked like they had just as much energy in the end as they did when they started. If I would be able to tap into just an ounce of the energy these two wonderful youth have, I would be able to do a lot more in life.
How many of you have similar stories? You watched your children or grandchildren running around and having fun and you wish you had that energy again. The good news is that as a church, we can get that same energy that the disciples had back then when they had their ‘Ah Ha’ moment. Jesus Christ left this earth blessing us to be witnesses. When the disciples felt this blessing, the scripture said Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple praising God.
Have you ever had a feeling like that? You are filled with great joy and you cannot hide it. You have one of those moments in life when people have such joy on their face that you have to wear sunglasses to be around them. I had that on May 25th, 2002 when Alycia and I were married. My cheeks hurt because I was smiling so much. During the Valentines Day Party I was reminded by Miles why, it is because I married way up! I have that same grin when I showed off my replicated DNA that is found in Dean and Campbell. We all have those moments in life when we beam with great joy. That joy is what we are able to receive here each worship service and what we are reminded about when the benediction is said.
Many people have a great moment of joy when the service ends. That means they can go home and some don’t wait for the benediction, they just wait for me to say Amen at the end of the sermon. But the joy the disciples felt comes after the benediction and to me it is one of the most important aspects of our service.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace, Amen. I said that benediction countless times as a youth and as a youth minister. The official United Methodist Youth Fellowship Benediction is a reminder of everything the Lord leaves us. The Lord blesses us and keeps us, his face shines upon us and is gracious. He lifts up his approval, or his countenance and gives us peace. When we have that type of support, that type of blessings, we can go into the world and accomplish anything.
That should be our weekly Eureka moment. That is when it should all come together and be understood. That is also why we leave worship with a blessing. That is why Jesus left this world blessing the disciples. We are called into action, given the power and strength to accomplish it, and then called back next week to be refueled for another week of work. Eureka! Now that you have unwrapped the gift and have been blessed, go and do the work.
And all God’s people said…Amen.