Ascension Sunday, Year C
Do We Ever Know the Last Time is the Last?
The past few weeks have been borrowed time for the disciples. They never knew when Jesus would show up—in the Upper Room, on the beach, joining them on the road. It must have been an almost magical time when they were thinking, “Maybe today He will come!” as they looked forward to His company. During those times, when He left, there was no fanfare, He was just gone. This time, there’s finality—Jesus has been raised up on a cloud. They know He’s not coming back, at least not physically.
I would have been sad. When it’s over, I think of all the things I should have done and said and been. Things I should have enjoyed more. Things I should have made the effort to change. My daughter said recently about an ending she faced, “I’m sad because I didn’t know the last time was the last time.” When Jesus was headed up in a cloud, sure, the disciples probably had a pretty good idea that was the end, but earlier that day when He appeared, did they know it was the last time He’d be with them in human form? Or did to-do list thoughts niggle at the back of their minds, things like, “Someone has to pick up the fish and make sure we have wood to burn for dinner”? Did they think He was going to be appearing to them in human form in perpetuity, that He had vanquished “last times” forever? Did they know the last time was the last time? Do we ever?
However, Jesus knows they can’t do it on their own. Just before He leaves them, He says, “Stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (v. 49). We know the gift is the Holy Spirit. But they don’t know exactly what Jesus means by “power from on high.” Having just witnessed the resurrection, they are presumably prepared for anything, but I don’t know if I would have been. I probably would have been too busy being filled with regret (again) over what was over to look to the future.
The disciples, however, according to Luke, dance off to Jerusalem “with great joy” (v. 52) and then “were continually in the temple praising God” (v. 53). Acts 1:14 indicates that they “entered the city…[and] devoted themselves with one accord to prayer,” leaving out the joy part. In any case, they were definitely praying and waiting expectantly. Something was going to happen and they were waiting for God to deliver.
Maybe that’s how I should be with endings too. Praying and waiting expectantly, if not with great joy. An ending is an ending. They happen all the time. I told my daughter it was ok to be sad about it, to go ahead and feel it, to let the emotion wash all over her. Feeling the sadness honors the experience. But then, eventually, to move on. To consider what’s next. Maybe I should have told also her to pray and wait expectantly, letting a little joy in every now and then too. Every ending is different. Every timeline is different. But I can definitely learn to pray and wait expectantly. Because I know there is always another chapter. The Resurrection teaches us that.