Ending and Beginning

RCL Year C  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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I want to thank you all for the time away. I was able to go and spend some time in Mesa and then head from there to Pennsylvania where I was able to be with all my brothers and my dad. My younger brother, Kevin, graduated from medical school and this was the first time that we had all been together since that same brother was married 5 years ago. It was truly a joy to be there not just to see my brother graduate but also to be with my family again.
It all began being picked up at the airport from my oldest brother Nick to walking into Kevin's house and being greeted by everyone it was so good to see everyone and be together again. I truly couldn’t have wanted a better way to get together again. Seeing and hugging my family and then standing around the house eating hamburgers and talking about life and old memories.
For my brother Kevin who graduated and is headed off to do his residency it is both and ending and a beginning. He is no longer a student, no longer has school to do in the formal sense. He is no longer going to be living in Pennsylvania. There are a lot of chapters that are closing for him, but at the same time there are a lot of things that are beginning for him. He is currently traveling across the country to a new destination where he will be a doctor in a hospital helping out children. He is a new father and is going to learn what all that means for him and his wife.
There are beginnings and endings in our lives on a constant basis. The visit to Pennsylvania was a beginning and ending for all of us who went. It began and ended all too soon, but it was worth the whole trip and, as those experiences do, they are experiences and memories that you will keep for the rest of your life and ones that you will tell when we get together again. Just like when we were together we shared stories of growing up.
He is currently traveling across the country to a new destination where he will be a doctor in a hospital helping out children. He is a new father and is going to learn what all that means for him and his wife.
Today’s story from Luke is also about endings and beginnings. The story that we hear is a continuation of the resurrection story and how Jesus appeared to them after he rose from the dead. Just before our text for today we have Jesus appearing to the disciples and while they can’t believe that Jesus was standing among them. Similar to how it was hard to believe that my brothers and I were all standing in the same place that first night even though we knew we were all going to be there, Jesus stood among them as he had promised. While they were in disbelief he asked them for some fish just like we had burgers that first night we were together.
Jesus shares with his disciples what it was going to be like once he ascended into heaven. Here in and of itself is a very important ending and beginning to the life of the disciples. You see, you could compare the disciples to my brother Kevin. He has been a student practicing and learning, but always under the tutelage of teachers and doctors. There has always been someone to lead him and ensure that he was doing and saying the right things. Now that he has graduated, he is a doctor and he will be making his own decisions and caring for the children that come into the hospital. That’s not to say that he is all on his own and he won’t consult other doctors and specialists, but he has closed or ended that chapter and has now begun as a full doctor.
As much as the ascension is about Jesus fulfilling scripture and going back up to heaven, it is also and perhaps for us more about what it means for the disciples and us. As Kevin moves from student to doctor, the disciples, are moving from disciples to apostles. The disciples are no longer able to rely on watching and learning and helping Jesus. That time of student has ended and they are now the teachers and leaders. They are no longer observers but they are proclaimers. Jesus reminds them they are to proclaim who the Messiah is, that he lived and suffered, he died and rose. They are to proclaim that there is forgiveness of sins to all nations.
Jesus ascends so that the disciples can truly move from being disciples to being apostles. So again, it is as much about the apostles as it is about Jesus. And it is also about you and I. This text is mean to share with all those who read this book that at some point during our lives we need to move away from people who simply sit and listen and learn as disciples and move into people who do. We need to end that chapter so that we may begin a new chapter. We need to begin a chapter of being like Peter at Pentecost who stand before the crowds and does exactly what Jesus instructs them to do in today’s text. He proclaims to all the people of Judea who exactly Jesus was and is and what he offers to all people.
Jesus doesn’t just throw them out to flounder for themselves, though. He has shown and taught them for three years, but he also promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit which will come to the soon. Jesus gives the apostles and all of us the gift of the Holy Spirit and the promise to always be with us. We are not thrust out in to the world without any tools or gifts with the hope to succeed while feeling like we will fail at any moment. We are given the word of God, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we are sent out with our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us along the way and stand beside us when we need help.
What is so beautiful about all of this is that in other parts of the gospel and in other parts of the other gospels we see how nervous and afraid the disciples are. We talked about that quite a bit the first two weeks after Easter. But now, as Jesus ascends into heaven we see the attitude of the disciples turned apostles change. As Jesus ascends into heaven and blesses them, we see them worship Jesus and as they go back into the city they are filled with great joy and bless God continually.
These are no longer the scared disciples we have seen for the last few weeks of Easter. These are now apostles who have ended their lives as disciples and know the full promises and blessings of God as active and alive in their lives. They have accepted the ending of the one chapter of their lives and are ready to take on all the blessings and challenges of what it means to be an apostle. May all of us also worship and bless God with joy knowing that we are loved and forgiven children of God. May we all embrace the life of apostleship knowing that we have the gift of the Holy Spirit and the company of other brothers and sisters in Christ. Knowing that as Christ ascended into heaven everything that he said, everything that he did has been fulfilled and we are the full recipients of all those blessings and that there are so many other people who need to hear and experience those same gifts. Amen.
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