Year C The Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1:1-11; Ephes. 1:17-23 Lk. 24:44-53
Ascension stories were fairly common around the time of Jesus and the gospel-authors, signifying the deification of a noteworthy person (usually a Roman Emperor), and in Judaism as an indication of divine approval. The Jews were familiar with the ascension story of
Enoch. Book of Genesis says, “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Gen 5:21-24)  They narrated the ascension story of Isaiah and many other prophets to their children.

 Non-Jewish readers would have been familiar with the case of the emperor Augustus, Romulus the founder of Rome, the Greek hero Heracles and others.
The great difference between the ascension stories that the contemporaries of Jesus knew and the ascension of Jesus is that Jesus’ ascension was witnessed by his disciples. And no one could challenge them.
Jesus ascended into heaven after 40 days of his resurrection. During the 40 days after Jesus' resurrection, he appeared to his disciples from time to time. He spoke to them about the kingdom of God. 
Luke says, when he was blessing the disciples, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God." [Lk. 24:44-53]
The appearance of Jesus has ended for the disciple, but the presence of Jesus continued in the form of the power-giving Holy Spirit. He told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift he would send them. That gift would be the Holy Spirit. He would live in them and guide them. He would be a Comforter to them. Jesus wanted them to tell everyone on earth that he had died for them. He told them to teach and to baptize those who believed. That is the mission that Jesus had given them.
There is a story of two camels talking to one another. There is a mother camel and there is her three-year-old child. And like any three-year-old child this young camel asked her mother a lot of questions. She asked the mother camel, Mum, why I have these huge two-toed feet? The mother replied, "When we go across the desert, your toes will help you stay on top of the soft sand." "Okay, but why have I got these great long eyelashes" as she bats her eyelashes at her mother. And the mother replies, "They will keep the sand out of your eyes on trips through the desert." And then she asks again, "but what about this big hump on my back?" And mum, starting to show a little exasperation at this point says, "You know, they help us to store water during our long treks across the desert." "Okay" the child says. "So we have these huge feet to keep us from sinking in the desert, long eyelashes to keep the sand out of our eyes and humps to store water. But I have just one more question." "Yes, what is it" asked the mother. “If we are made for the desert what are we doing in the Zoo.”
The camel is designed to live in the desert. Likewise, a Christian is designed to live in the society and bear witness to the life and resurrection of Jesus, responding to the social needs of those who are around us. We have the teachings of Jesus. We are strengthened by the witness of the Apostles and the early Christians. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit.  And we are inspired by the saints. Now it is our time to be the messengers of Jesus.
An ancient legend tells of the return of Jesus to glory after his time on earth. Even in heaven he bore the marks of his earthly pilgrimage with its cruel cross and shameful death. The angel Gabriel approached him and said, "Master, you suffered terribly down there. Do they know and appreciate how much you loved them and what you did for them?"
Jesus replied, "Oh, no! Not yet. Right now only a handful of people in Palestine know."
But Gabriel was perplexed. He asked, "Then how will people learn of what you have done and your love for them?"
Jesus said, "I have asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell others about me. Those who are told will tell others in turn. And my story will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of humankind will have heard."
Gabriel frowned and looked rather sceptical. He knew what poor stuff humans were made of. He said, "Yes, but what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? What if they just fail to tell? What is your alternate plan?"
Jesus answered, "There is no other plan."
Before the Ascension Jesus told his Disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” They just followed words of Jesus and did wonders. The first Christians were revolutionaries. The group they formed was very different in many ways. According to Acts of Apostles, they met in their homes and devoted themselves to God’s Word. As a result, these early Christians brought about the most amazing and powerful transformation the world has ever known. Christians emerged in the midst a tremendously diverse Roman melting pot of social and religious ideas and through purely peaceful means completely changed the Empire and united it under the banner of Christianity. They simply opened their homes for the needy, spoke the truth fearlessly and trusted God for the results. Long before Christianity became a dominant political power, it was a divine movement of God. Long before Christianity found a comfortable home in church buildings, it was an active body of passionate believers.
Early Christians were bound and united by a common truth. They were characterized by uncommon joy. They were fearless. They were known by their love.  They gave sacrificially to the needy. They were God’s Holy Ambassadors in a dying world.
The feast of Ascension of Jesus calls us to imbibe that essence of Christianity and be his ambassadors today. Today Jesus should be able to look at us and tell that I have told my message to John/David/Sarah/May. And I have no alternate Plan.
May Jesus give us grace and strength to accept this challenge.