No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, You Are Welcome Here.

Ready, Set

Posted on 12 May 2024

May 12, 2024

Acts 1:6-11

Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman


Ascension Day – sounds like a spell from Harry Potter.  Celebrated 40 days after Easter, which was this past Thursday, it’s a real day in the Christian calendar.  Other than hearing that European countries get the day or week off, I’ve never heard anyone talk about how we should celebrate Ascension Day, this day when Jesus ascends into heaven to sit at the right hand of God.

I’ve never received an Ascension Day card.  Have you?  The stores aren’t full of flowers or candy or gifts to give your loved one.  Does Ascension Day even have a liturgical color?  Yes, it does.  It’s white but that’s not terribly surprising because the entire season of Easter is white.

According to Sharon Betsworth, a professor of New Testament studies, Ascension day, like Advent, is a time of waiting.  As she goes on to write in her commentary on this passage from Acts, “waiting is always a holy time, a time to empty ourselves, and be filled with new possibilities.”  (, May 18, 2023, Betsworth)

In this passage from Acts, Jesus’ followers are being called to empty themselves of old ways and be open to new possibilities.  Our scripture passage begins with the diciples asking Jesus, “Is this the time?  Is this the moment when you will upset the world order and free Israel?”  They want to know when.

And Jesus responds, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7 NRSV)  The Message translation says, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business.” (Acts 1:7 The Message).  Although I am sure he said it very pastorally, basically, Jesus is telling his followers to stay in their lane and mind their own business.

It’s not our business to stand around and wonder what God is up to, to debate how we would be doing things if we were God.  When will our world be filled with peace, love, unity?  The timing of that is God’s business.

Our business, Jesus tell us, is to wait for the Holy Spirit, to prepare for the Holy Spirit, to receive the Holy Spirit and be witnesses – witnesses to God’s plan, God’s dream of a world filled with peace, love, and unity.


Acts of the Apostles and the gospel of Luke are widely believed to be written by the same author.  In many ways, Acts of the Apostles feels like a continuation of the gospel of Luke.  If you were to open your Bible though and look at the ending of Luke, you would find the story of Jesus’ ascension.  Not written in the same way, because the Bible after all is not a history book, it’s the story of God’s love for us, and yet, the core parts of both passages are the same – that Jesus’ followers will be “clothed with power from on high” in order that we might be Christ’s witnesses (Luke 24:49). Christ’s witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Very compassionately, I am sure, Jesus tells his followers – leave God’s business to God and pay attention to your own business – getting ready for the Holy Spirit and getting set to be witnesses to the good news of God’s love.  Because on Pentecost, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God is going to turn common people into uncommon forces, uncommon forces for peace, for hope, for justice, for love.

Ascension Day isn’t for gift-giving or card exchanging.  Ascension Day isn’t for standing around to second guess God and talk about how God should really be doing this and that.  Ascension Day is the time to get ready, to get set so that when we receive the Holy Spirit, we will be prepared to witness and share.  To witness and share in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

That invitation from Jesus could have been taken literally by his followers.  After all, the Apostle Paul was on his way to Spain before he was arrested, which to first century people felt like the ends of the earth.

This invitation from Jesus is also metaphorical.  When the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit, they were in Jerusalem.  So when Jesus invites them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Jesus is saying witness to God’s way of peace and justice, share God’s love right where you are.  Right where you are.

As you look around you, you might be thinking ‘witness here?  I’m at home with my family’ or ‘I’m surrounded by Christian community.  There isn’t any need to share about God here.’

Oh, there is though.  Witnessing to the amazing things God has done in our lives and our world is how we nurture each other in Christian community.  It’s how we nurture our children, our partners, our parents.

Last week, I had two occasions where people witnessed to me about our awesome God.  One was through the prayer chain.  The second was while meeting with a family to plan their loved one’s memorial service.  Their father, a faithful, God adoring man, knew he was dying and was honest enough to say that he was afraid.  And then he did what we all should do – he turned that fear over to Jesus.  And Jesus told him, “Do not be afraid.”  God is forever telling us “Do not be afraid.”  “Do not be afraid.  I love you and I have watched over you and protected you all of your life.  Trust and know that I will continue to love and take care of you.”

It’s important to be witnesses to Jerusalem, to witness right where we are, because then we nurture fellow Christians and help them grow closer to God.  And we nurture ourselves because sharing about God’s presence in our lives reminds us of our connection with God and also helps us become more comfortable with sharing.  Witnessing in “Jerusalem” helps us get ready, get set to witness in Judea.

If Jerusalem is where we are right now, Judea is where we are most comfortable – talking to people who are like us and that we already know quite well.  Sometimes, those friends, family members, co-workers are also going to be people of faith, and your witness, your sharing of what God means to you is going to deepen the connection, inviting them to share what faith means to them.

Sometimes, those people are not going to be people of faith, and because of that, you might have been hiding this part of you, this part of you that trusts God, that turns to God, that loves and adores God.

Ascension Day is the time to get ready, to get set to become more comfortable letting those you are most comfortable with get to know you even better as you share how God is present in your life.

And we need to get comfortable, get comfortable witnessing in our Christian communities and homes and with our friends – because witnessing in Samaria calls us completely out of our comfort zones into Samaria.

The people of Israel despised and were despised by the people of Samaria.  Despite having much in common, despite the potential to work together for God’s dream of a community of peace and justice, the dislike between these two people created barriers to God’s community.

Witnessing in Samaria means we are being called to share about God’s love and peace with those people who annoy us, with those people we have had a long standing dislike of or prejudice against.  We are being called to talk with those we would like to think have nothing in common with us and invite them to share our new life in Jesus Christ.

I’m not sure which is harder – that or being called to go to the ends of the earth, to share with people who are extremely different from you and you know nothing about.

In her book, Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism, Martha Grace Reese advises us to start with Jerusalem and Judea, to start with the children in our Christian community, to nurture them with our stories of how God has guided us, protected us, and cared for us throughout our lives.  Then she advises that we move out into Judea – to good friends, close family, dear co-workers and neighbors – before we start knocking on the doors of strangers.

Our church vitality consultant doesn’t ever recommend knocking on doors.  The Rev. Paul Nickerson says we need to get to know someone and build a connection of trust before we have earned the right to share our faith story with them.

Before we witness to a single person, though, we need to get ready; we need to get set.  We need to be clear about what God means to us; why we go to church; what difference does Jesus and being a Christian make in our life.  How have you been transformed and are being transformed by knowing you are loved, unconditionally loved by the Creator of the world?

On the day of Ascension, Jesus is telling all of his disciples – stop standing around second guessing God; stop staring at the empty sky; because we have work to do.  There is hope to be shared; there is comfort to be given; there is good news to spread to those near and far.  There is witnessing to be done, everywhere we go.

So get ready; get set because the time to share the good news of God’s incredible and unconditional love is now.