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May 24, 2009

A Friend in High Places

This is a strange and almost unbelievable story for us to hear; Jesus simply leaves the disciples. He is whisked up into the heavens.

I imagine that the disciples were just getting accustomed to the idea of his resurrection, his occasional guest appearances, his accessibility to them.

They liked the idea that he was nearby – somewhere able to come to them and be seen by him and even to be blessed by him. But on this Ascension Day he bids them farewell for the last time, tells them that they will soon receive the Holy Spirit and he challenged them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.

It seems that Jesus had to leave his disciples if they were to get on with the tasks of teaching, preaching and establishing the church.

I am sure that they felt unprepared when he died on the cross. They didn't know what to do when they heard of his resurrection. They barely knew what to do when they saw him risen. And at the ascension they felt inadequate to the task of getting on with their lives,doing what he had charged them to do.

How could they live without him? They needed him, his presence, comfort, strength and Divine Words.

It was this leaving that occasioned their real growth. It was only as he turned them loose with what ever he had given them up to that point, that they would come to know what he had given them and who they were. From that Ascension Day forward, the disciples would discover Christ within themselves and within the world they served.

When I was in my early teens, the only job a young girl could get to earn money was babysitting. I started by watching kids while their parents were home. Then I took classes at the Y. Finally, the people across the street asked me to sit for their three kids.

They left a number where I could call and I knew they would come back eventually, but for the time being I was in charge- I had a job to do- on my own without the parents present. It was an awesome responsibility.

It is an awesome responsibility Jesus has entrusted to us. But our parent believes in us and has provided all we need to continue Christ’s work.

Perhaps you have heard of Giacomo Puccini. He was an Italian composer. He left the world some wondrous music. But in 1922, only 64 at the time, he was diagnosed with cancer. Though very ill, he continued to work on the opera Turandot. Many people tried to convince him not to waste his limited energy on a piece he could not possibly finish but he pressed on.

When his death was near, he said to his students: "If I do not finish Turandot, I want you to finish it for me."

He did not finish the opera. Immediately after his death his students gathered together all of the scores and his notes, studied them with great care, and then finished the opera.

The opening performance took place in 1926 and was conducted by one of Puccini's students. When he reached the place where the his teacher had stopped composing the conductor put down his baton, turned to the audience and said to them, "Thus far, the master wrote, and then he died."

No one moved and no one made a sound for several minutes.

Then he picked up his baton again and smiled through his tears. He said, "But his disciples have finished his work." Tears flowed with the music and the sound of the applause went on and on.

Jesus said-

You are my disciples. Now go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the close of the age.


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