I used to not fully realize what we celebrated on Ascension Thursday. Growing up it seemed like a sad end to the story: Superman Jesus flies away and the disciples are left standing around in disbelief. Several years ago, a mentor of mine said to me that on Ascension Thursday we celebrate one of the boldest things that Jesus ever did. He left the world and left the church in the hands of the disciples. If you understand the feast of the Ascension, it has pretty serious and exciting consequences for your life.
I used to be the type of leader that believed if you want something done correctly it’s better to do it yourself. This is not the model of Jesus, but sadly it can often be the model we use in the church. A church that is truly healthy isn’t marked by people who behave and follow but by people who are leaders. The feast of the Ascension should call the church to remember we need to invest in developing leaders. “Leadership potential” is a myth. Each and every baptized Christian is called to be a leader, recognizing their unique calling and gifting. You were anointed at baptism as Priest, Prophet, and King!
The feast of the Ascension is a feast that should remind us what discipleship is really about. Being a disciple does not mean simply praying, receiving the sacraments, and trying to avoid sin. God wants you to have a vision for your life. Being a disciple means that you are fully alive and are using your gifts in whatever situation God puts you in. Too often we live lives as Christians that are too similar to our non-Christian friends. Our mountaintop experiences shouldn’t revolve around escaping reality. Our mountaintop experiences should be about experiencing the love of Jesus in our everyday lives and sharing that with others. We should aim to live lives we don’t need to escape from.
Being a disciple means that we experience the overwhelming love of God and in response to that love, we give him our entire lives. God has a calling for you. We discover who we are called to be, as we are in relationship with Jesus.
One of the necessities of being a disciple is following the master closely. You can’t do that from a distance and you can’t be both master and disciple. Only one can be in charge. The ironic but true: when we give God control, we are more free then we have ever been. Even though I often forget this reality, I have found only God is truly enough. Nothing else in my life ever compares to his love. God is more than enough. He loves me perfectly. He loves you perfectly. He invites you to be a disciple
We can’t forget that although the apostles ended up saints, they clearly started as sinners. In fact, throughout most of the Gospels Jesus is rebuking the disciples because they don’t understand what he is telling them or they are doing things contrary to his teaching. Why in the world is Jesus ready to leave the world and the Church in their hands? He has poured his life into them for 3 years. I am sure he is fully confident they will make some mistakes, but he is even more convinced they are ready to lead because he has invested his time and himself in them.
Jesus leaves his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit, but charges them with the great commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Three takeaways I would love to share with you on this feast of the Ascension:
- God has uniquely gifted and called you to be a leader.
- Find a mentor. One of the greatest ways to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ is through a discipleship / mentoring relationship. Look for someone who is living their relationship with Jesus in a way that you want to imitate.
- Be a mentor. Sharing your faith and your walk with someone newer to the faith then yourself isn’t only beneficial to you, it’s too often the missing piece of discipleship in our church today. Disciples are multipliers. That means they are always looking to replicate in others what Christ has done in them.
Be encouraged. The world needs your witness. Step up. The Church needs bold leaders.
I would love to hear your thoughts below. What lessons has the Ascension taught you? How have mentors played a part in your spiritual life?