Have you ever wished that you knew more about the ways of God? Did you ever wish that God would give you a heads up about the future? These kinds of questions were on the minds of the early apostles and disciples when they were given instructions through the Holy Spirit. They wanted to know if this was the moment when the kingdom of God would come to fulfillment. They wanted to know if now is the time when the promises of God would be fulfilled. I’m sure their unspoken wish was that now would be the time for an end to suffering and a beginning of new life and goodness. Jesus has one answer for them: a reminder that that is not for them to know.
Behind that response lies the most important teaching of Jesus. He wants us to live in this present moment as His disciples and to do all that we can to make our lives and the lives of others fruitful, peaceful and abundant. From the early example of the apostles and disciples, we know that this will come about through sharing our gifts with others. We know from those accounts that it will involve including people that we normally don’t include, especially if their practices or language make us uncomfortable or afraid. We know that Jesus lived according to His teachings and made each moment count for good. But how are we to do that? How are we to live with such a focus on the present moment and not be lured into the past or the future?
One of the readings that is offered for the Ascension comes from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In chapter 1, verses 17 through 23, Paul tells us exactly what will help us to stay in this moment and not be lured out of it. He prays that the eyes of our hearts be enlightened. He wants us to know about the hope that is attached to Jesus’ call to be His disciples. He talks about the surpassing power residing with us. He talks about Jesus being established in such a great power and authority that we need not be afraid of anything or anyone. St. Paul talks about Jesus being the ruler of all things and all people. So the question we must ask ourselves is: Do we trust Jesus with that kind of power and dominion? Are we willing to live in this present moment, trusting that Jesus has all things in His realm of power?
The reason that some of us might have a hard time trusting Jesus is that His power doesn’t involve overpowering other people; it takes the form of washing the feet of His disciples. His realm of power has to do with giving His own flesh and blood, His entire life and love, for the sake of both those who are faithful to Him and those who aren’t. Most of us do not hold to that kind of power. We dream of times when good people would win over bad people. We sometimes get arrogant enough to wish that God would make everybody else think like we do, because we think we’re so smart and enlightened. Sadly, some of us have even begun to entertain ideas like the world would be a better place if certain people would be taken out or go away. It is hard for us to trust the realm of power that Jesus has and invites us into.
When Jesus leaves this earth, He’s not abandoning us. He is still in the deepest love relationship with us as can ever be imagined. Are we willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and live in this present moment as He would have us live?
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.