The Rev. Jerry True – June 2, 2019

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“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

In the Name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The question with which I began was asked by two men in white robes, who appeared or were present on the occasion of our Lord’s Ascension as described in the Acts of the Apostles, which was the first lesson appointed for the Eucharist on this past Thursday, the Feast of the Ascension.

Why was everyone present that day and at that time, why were they staring up into the heavens? Something very puzzling, something very unusual, something very unexpected had just happened; They had been walking and talking with Jesus when suddenly a great cloud had formed and they saw Jesus being lifted up into that cloud, and then he was gone.

Those who had been privileged to actually witness the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven were still looking up. Was something more about to happen? What next? Will there be a sign? What now? I can imagine someone in that group of people, beginning to recover from their shock, which can happen when something totally dramatic, unusual and unexpected occurs; I can imagine that individual thinking or even saying, “Well, now I’ve seen everything!” To which the correct answer would be, of course, “No you haven’t. Not by a long shot.”

Recently I was talking with a very smart, competent medical professional for whom I have great respect.  I believed this medical professional would be a great respecter of science, scientists, and the great strides that have been made bringing new truths and a new awareness of those advances to much of the general public. One such truth is a new and more enlightened awareness of the effects of human industry, life and behavior that contributes to climate change; and the contribution that we human beings make toward the unsettling of the atmosphere and the disturbing of normal weather patterns around the world.

To my great surprise and disappointment, this medical professional seemed to dismiss it all as just the natural cycles of climactic change and that there was little that mankind could do to affect those natural cycles; either for the good or for evil. And then he said something like this, “Besides”, he said, “it will all be put right when Jesus comes again.”

I remember muttering words of agreement as I was leaving. Now I believe in and look for and to the second coming of Christ, but I was not entirely happy with either his blaze attitude towards this earth, this gift of a loving God’s creation; nor was I entirely happy with my muttered response. Mainly, I was left wondering what my response should have been. Of course, I agreed with him that when Jesus comes again, all will be put aright, but when will that be? As Christians, we should always be looking up. We should always be preparing for Jesus to come again; praying, working, hoping, loving, growing, watching and seeking to serve each other in the Name of Jesus Christ. But what about the concerns of those of us who as yet live between the first and second comings of our Lord and Savior?

Should we rely solely on Christ’s second coming, the parousia, as a kind of RESET button, thus dismissing all deep concern for the future of this planet and for the health and welfare our descendents? No, I don’t think so. As stewards of God’s abundance, we bear the privilege and the obligation of doing our part to ensure the blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. Taking the lessons of past experience, caring and working and nurturing the present, and as an act of love, taking proper steps to prepare for a healthy world for those who come after us

A fellow named Josephus, who was one of the early secular historians during the early years of the Christian Church once wrote,

“Those Christians! They live as though they were going to die tomorrow, but they build as though they were going to live forever.”

What about this comparatively little planet? “Little” by comparison with some other known planets; but hugely important to the origin, home and source of all life as we know it. Our earth, Mother Earth: among the planets comparatively small, but so very essential and necessary to the existence of the human race! The earth, so little but especially favored and beloved and endowed with life by the Creator of all things. Should we let the hope and the expectation of Jesus’ second coming distract us from the needs of present and future generations who do and will continue to inhabit this, our God-given island home? Does our future hope and expectation justify our indifference and even the denial of some to the reality of climate change and the unprecedented ability of the human race to heavily influence the outcome and future of this planet, this mother earth, this island of life, in the enormity of an as yet incomprehensible sea of vastness in the infinity of the created order?

Fellow Christians, brothers and sisters, we should still be looking up. Looking up for the grace and love of Almighty God to come again at every hour of every day of our lives; but also, we should be looking forward. Embracing the wisdom of earth science, knowing that, while we as yet do not have all the answers, we do have some of them.

Most of us recognize that good science and faith should never be considered as natural enemies but as independent seekers for truth and justice in both the realm of the Spirit, and in the pursuits of scientific study; Today, we do have much more knowledge about the effects of pollution on our air and water, our sea and sky, than our parents did, but not as yet as much as we need to provide for the needs of our children and our children’s children to prosper as we live out our lives on this wonderful, beautiful and unique planet.

There are those vested interests which deny, protest and scoff at the idea of man-made climate change, preferring short term bottom line profits to future concerns. Maybe, when Wall Street stands under three feet of water, the fact of global warming might be acknowleged, though there will certainly be those who say that we were helpless to do anything about it.Yes, I do believe that Jesus is coming again. I do believe in God’s act of creation, begun, continued and continuing on into the future, a future that leads us into God himself. But in the meantime, we have a sacred responsibility. We are called to love one another as Christ loves us, to have respect for the dignity, health, needs and feelings that we find in each other.

We are also called to be good and faithful stewards of the world that our loving God has created for our use and the use of all our brothers and sisters, past, present and future.

God the Creator, the Lord; who rulest the earth and the heavens,

Guard us from harm without, cleanse us from evil within.

Jesus the health of the world, enlighten our minds, thou Redeemer,

Son of the Father supreme, only begotten of God

Spirit of life and of power, now flow in us, fount of our being,

Light that dost enlighten all, life that in all dost abide

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Let us work and be mindful and pray with thanksgiving for the good earth that God has given us, doing our part to contribute to the health and welfare of those who share this, our island home.

But as we pursue our lives together here and make our best efforts toward good stewardship of what we have been given, let us all remember to look up.

Look up! My sisters and brothers; Our salvation is at hand. Jesus is coming, coming at a time known only to the Father; coming at an unexpected hour. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Maranatha. Amen.

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