"Why do you stand looking into heaven?" ask two men dressed in white robes. Indeed, why do we stand looking into heaven? And where should we be looking?
A few years ago with the fly-by of Comet Hale-Bopp, and the recent last eclipse of the millenium, people in record numbers were out looking into heaven. Combined with a resurgence of UFO mania, the popularity of The X-Files, the Star Wars prequel, photos from the space probe Galileo giving us hints of something like frozen chunks of water in space, people are more and more looking into heaven.
As we find ourselves approaching the new millennium at a startling rate of speed, people are looking for "some way out of here," as Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix used to sing. ("Here" seeming to be an increasingly difficult, hard, and lonesome place to be.)
Out there must be some other place, any other place, better than this, we think on our bad days. So it must have seemed to the disciples. Their leader and savior had just taken off, seemingly skywards. The military and political authorities seemed stronger and more dangerous than ever.
As Jesus leaves them they are pleading with him to restore the Kingdom to Israel.
"It's not for you to know, but the Spirit will come to you...."
And then he is gone. And like us, they are standing there looking up, searching the sky, wishing to see a sign that the time would be now, or soon-or at least certain to come.
Like Daniel, they wished to see a dream or a vision. Like us, they would like to know what the plan is. And like everyone, they would like an end to the loneliness. To lose someone close to you is just plain difficult to bear. Yet the promise is made.
Depending on which version of Luke's story you want to read, the promise is there: you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes, I send the promise of my father upon you until you are clothed with power from on high. Stay where you are. Stay in the city. Continually bless God in the temple.
Stay where you are. It will come to you. This is not the message we want to hear. We are people who are used to being on the move-going where we wish, hope, and desire to go.
Stay where you are. Abide. Stop looking up. It will come to you soon that it is all right here.
Does it help us to know that the concept of the Messiah and the Messianic Age or Kingdom was thought by Jesus and his contemporaries to take place right here, not somewhere else, not out there, not up in the sky, not some other time -- but now?
The Messianic Kingdom will come to us; to those of us who stay here in the city; to those of us who are joyful; to those of us who bless God; to those of us who know and love Jesus-his Kingdom is here and now.
We are not called to look for the Kingdom, to search the heavens for signs of its arrival, but to step into it here and now with all that we are, all that we say, and all that we do.