Ascension Day Service 21/05/20
“Empowered to witness"
Bible readings: Acts 1: 1–11& Luke 24: 44–53
Today we are celebrating the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ into heaven from the Mount of Olives. This event took place on the fortieth day after he presented himself alive to the disciples.
And given the fact that he has overcome death with many convincing proofs, the disciples became very anxious about the coming kingdom Jesus spoke about throughout his early ministry, and so now that he is leaving them they asked him; “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?
Already they had soon forgotten Jesus’ answer to Pontus Pilate during his trial that “my kingdom is not from this world” when Pilate asked him “Are you the king of the Jews?” (John 18:28-38).
Jesus, however, replied the disciples by telling them that “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem; in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
When the disciples obeyed the Lord and waited in Jerusalem as he commanded them to do, they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and became empowered to witness the Good News of God in all corners of life sacrificially leading to suffering and death.
Like the disciples, we too are empowered by the same Spirit of God to witness the love of Christ to the world especially in this perilous time of COVID-19. This power that comes from the Holy Spirit to us is to be used to glorify God in our witnessing as the disciples did, and not for self-glorification. This calls for merely hard work and sacrifices to serve the church of Christ.
Don’t forget that the same disciples who beforehand seemed timid and acted only in their own interests are now willing to lay down their lives for Christ. And the result of this is a victory for Christ and the Gospel all over the world.
We are empowered by the Spirit of God to bring unity into the body of Christ and society. The Holy Spirit does not give us the power to fight, to attack each other, to hate, or to destroy, but the power to love, to witness to declare repentance for those things that destroy life and forgiveness that liberates us to a new future in Christ.
Like the disciples, are we also acting only in the supreme interest of Christ and his church here in St. George’s or we are acting in our own self-interests in our respective roles? Are we also, like the disciples, willing to lay down our lives for Christ and the Gospel as defenders of the faith that was once handed to us?
In all Christian history, there is only one inevitability, the promised return of Jesus Christ. He will come back in just the way he departed when the Kingdom of Heaven will be fully visible and tangible. No setbacks, no failures of the visible church, or its leaders, no powers on earth or in heaven are able to cause history to have any other conclusion. Jesus is coming back again, and probably sooner than we are expecting him.
How prepared are we for the coming of the Lord? And in our preparation for His coming, are we willing to give a chance to reconciliation and the hope of peace in our relationships? I believe this is a great sign of the work of the Holy Spirit through us.
What could be more important than the message we are left to proclaim? What can be more essential to that message than the gift of power from God? Power to liberate not to dominate; power to bring unity not hatred; power to bring freedom not fear.
Ascension is about victory and power to change our world; it is the power to overcome fear; it is the power to endure; it is the power to rejoice; it is power to celebrate; it is the power to tolerate one another; it is the power to patiently endure suffering; knowing that the victory of Jesus the Christ is certainly our victory over life’s threatening circumstances.
May the victory and power of the ascended Lord and Christ challenge us to witness the love of God in the world.
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and always.
Rev. Confidence Bansah (Ph. D.)
Minister of St. George’s and Christ Church