acts 1:1-11; ephesians 1:17-23 or ephesians 4:1-13; mark 10:15-20
the 4x100 relay is a tremendously thrilling event. the most exciting/important time is the baton exchange… and many a race has been lost because of poor baton exchange. since 1988, american quartets have been disqualified or haven’t finished the event nine times at the olympics and world championships—even though they had the fastest runners—because of poor baton exchanges.
the ascension is JESUS passing the baton to his disciples and to us in this great human and christian race!
the ascension completes JESUS’ leg of the relay and his mission on earth to bring the good news to the afflicted, liberty to captives, sight to the blind… to bring wholeness to people.
the ascension begins the disciples’ part of the relay. in the gospel, JESUS sets out their part: «go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.» mark establishes an immediate connection between JESUS’ ascension and the disciples’ mission: «so the lord JESUS… was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of GOD. but they went forth and preached everywhere.»
this continuation of the mission is a challenge. the LORD assures us that he is with us through his spirit.
the scene from the acts, in today’s first reading, is modelled on the experience of joshua and elisha. as joshua received a share of moses’ spirit and elisha received a double share of elijah’s, JESUS assures his disciples that they will receive the power to be his witnesses when the holy spirit comes upon them.
despite this promise, the disciples stand «looking intently at the sky.» they have not understood that they have to look towards the earth and history… the place where they must be witnesses.
the baton has been passed to us. the mission is ours; the spirit and power the LORD is ours. am i willing to carry the baton and run my leg of the race? how will i continue JESUS’ mission where i live and work?
ps: it takes time and much practice for relays to run well. and american national teams have little of that. the relay is an all-star team that has never run together.
i need time with the LORD to receive the baton; i need to be in the correct «exchange-zone»; i need to run with the team… always!