“Why do you stand looking into heaven?” ask two men dressed in white robes to the disciples staring up into space.
Indeed, why do we stand looking into heaven? And where should we be looking?
Whenever a comet flies by, whenever there is a total or partial eclipse, people in record number are out looking into heaven. Combined with a resurgence of UFO mania, the popularity of “The X-Files,” the Star Wars movies, photos from the space probe Galileo giving us hints of something like frozen chunks of water in space, breathtaking photos from the Hubble telescope viewing the very origins of the universe, people are looking into heaven more and more.
Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix must have been expressing the hopes of millions as they sang, “There must be some way out of here.”
“Here” seems 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 skyward. 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 knowwwww … 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 or John the Revelator, 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 is just plain difficult to bear. We all know what that feels like. It seems as if life cannot possibly go on. At least not at all like it had before they left us.
Yet, here, with Jesus, a promise is made.
The promise is: “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. Be joyful.”
“Stay where you are. It will come to you. God will come to you. God’s Kingdom will come to you.” This is not the message we want to hear.
We are people who are used to being on the move. We go where we wish, hope and desire. We are urged to go for all the gusto we can get. We are schooled that all you have to do is want it and work for it, and it shall be yours.
But Jesus says: “Stay where you are. Abide. Stop looking up. It will come to you right where you are. Continually bless God in the temple. Be joyful.”
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, not some future 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 have, all that we say and all that we do.
To those of us who stay here joyfully blessing God, it will come. Those who participate in this life with an attitude of Thanksgiving will receive its full promise.