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Up 'n at 'em!

Up 'n at 'em!

Fri 26 May 2017

It is interesting to see how birthdays can cluster around particular dates in the year. In my family we have four birthdays within the space of one week! While it does make planning birthday parties and budgeting for gifts a little tricky, it is a wonderful week of celebration and thanksgiving for God’s blessing to us.

While not quite so tight as our birthday week the second quarter of each year is jam packed with significant celebrations. Lent rolls into Palm Sunday and Holy Week. The agony of Good Friday gives way to the joy of Easter Day. Jesus’ triumphant resurrection is given universal effect in his Ascension. The events of Jesus’ life are naturally paired to show out God’s redemptive work to bring us from the depths of estrangement to the hope of glory. Yet there is a final pair that we must not miss because in it we find the pointers that help us to answer the question, ‘How should I follow Jesus?’.

Jesus’ Ascension should be paired with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Imagine yourself as one of the first disciples watching Jesus
ascend into heaven. Did this mean that Jesus was now ‘up, up, and away’, or was it telling me ‘now, up ’n at ’em!’.

We see in the beginning of Acts that the first disciples were actually left feeling bereft. As if Jesus had ‘up, up, and away-ed’ from them. They knew that he was alive, but did not quite know how to act given that wonderful reality. Yet it all changed when the Holy Spirit came at that first Pentecost. The pairing of Jesus’ return to heaven with the coming of the Holy Spirit resolved the disciples question about what they were to do.

If Jesus’ death and resurrection was pivotal, the means for death to be turned to life, then his ascension and then gift of the Spirit was the actuator, motive force, power behind the mission to be taken up by the disciples. Both events needed to happen; but because they did Jesus leaving signalled not, ‘up, up and away’ but, ‘up ’n at ’em!’. The unique works of Jesus were now to be ministered to a waiting world by an empowered people.

So let me leave you with four fantastic consequences of the way that God has chosen to send us out:

1. The ordinary believer has been drafted in to God’s purposes. Not as bystanders, but as key workers.

2. The scope of God’s plan is revealed. No longer was the call ‘come in here to find God’, but rather ‘we will go to you to tell out his great deeds’.

3. That as our humanity was assumed into the Trinity in Jesus’ ascension, God chooses to grace our humanity with the Holy Spirit.

4. That God’s power would be made perfect in our weakness. The upside-down kingdom Jesus preached would be seen working in practice.

So what are you waiting for … up ‘n at ‘em!

by Bishop Matt Brain

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