I want to talk to you about getting our eyes fixed and understanding our vision. Many of you will relate to what I am saying if your view was suddenly blocked on Friday by the billowing smoke that blew across our very town from a blaze that erupted in an old warehouse – thick, acrid smoke filled the air and people were rather afraid. Many on the ground had only one response, to look up and be curious – to wonder about the sky and what was happening. Others, thank God, had their eyes fixed firmly on the ground...looking out for any people who might have been affected by the blaze....turning ambulances around, (as I witnessed on the A6) to head back on roads towards us... preparing hoses to put that fire out! They had their eyes fixed ahead whilst many of us, including me, sky-gazed.
As we consider the disciples' reaction to the ascension of Jesus, we see that it was similar. At the ascension of Jesus, those disciples have their eyes on the sky! They sky-gaze and two angels are sent to correct their vision. Disciples of Jesus, you and me, must concentrate instead not on sky-gazing, not on doing the maths on when Jesus will return. (It is not for us to know, says Jesus). We are to set our eyes ahead and look to the people all around us whom we must reach for Christ.
In the absence of Christ's physical body, we are his body!
In the absence of Christ's physical body, we are his hands and feet!
We must get on with the ministry that he began. At his ascension, Jesus disappears into the Shekinah glory, the same Shekinah glory that filled the temple in the Old testament, the same glory-cloud that accompanied the people of God journeying to the promised land, and as Christians, Jesus promises that the same glory can reside is us, through the power of his Holy Spirit.
We get to be the temple of the living God!
We get to carry his presence everywhere!
The disciples are told to wait for the one whom we already know: the Holy Spirit.
The disciples are to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and fill them for Christ's mission: a mission for which he asks us to set our eyes ahead on the world he has made and get busy helping him bring in his Kingdom. We do not get to sit back and gaze upwards, waiting.
Set your eyes ahead people.
Not only does Jesus ask us to set our eyes straight ahead as a people empowered by his Spirit, that same Spirit corrects our very vision, helping us to see in more dimensions.
We have just invested (for the kids) in a TV that when I put special glasses on, I can watch in 3D. By filling us with the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives us a special ability to see the people around us in a whole new dimension. Can you see in 3D or has your world become increasingly flat over the years as you concentrate too much on the faults and weaknesses in the people around you? If we can conceive of a Jesus who is present everywhere: Jesus the new creation, Jesus: risen, ascended and glorified, which is how Jesus asks you to see him, then do you realise that he is asking too, that you see the people all around you, those who are 'in Christ,' as new creations too?
Now this does not, of course, mean, we get to transcend time and space like Christ. Neither does this mean that we are always going to feel pretty glorious. But then this never was about feelings anyway, they change minute by minute. Our status is what it's all about. We are children of God because of what God has done for us in Christ, because our sins have been wiped away. This is why we really are pretty glorious, we are new creations. God says so!
Seeing people in 3D, in their fullest God-dimension, means seeing your fellow Christians here as new creations; as people capable of amazing God-empowered acts. It is Jesus asking you to see the people around you this way, as full of the most awesome God- potential – see the people around you in 3D – see their status as a people empowered and Spirit-filled because this is who Jesus says we are. We need to step into that circle of encouragement that surrounded him that day, forty days after his resurrection, and we need to start believing it both about ourselves and the people around us.
So put your glasses on people: stop looking up for a miracle and start looking around at the people-miracles all around you.
Put your glasses on people: you are new creations and capable of amazing things right here in your own back yard.
Put your glasses on people: you get to stay in Jerusalem says Jesus and become more and more empowered by the Holy Spirit spreading a message that will ripple out, and further out again, until the ends of the earth are reached.
And did you hear that? You get to stay here, someone has to. Your children were sent to Africa, you have been sent around the whole of the Midlands, in a year or so I will be sent somewhere new too, but Jesus asks those of us remaining to begin and continue here.
These streets are your Jerusalem.
This town is your land for God.
The new estate over there is your Samaria.
Put your glasses on people. Step into that circle of encouragement, the shekinah glory. Do not wait.
Put your glasses on people, think about the mission that Jesus is calling you to.
Put your glasses on people and tell us what the view is like. Amen.