Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11 Thursday after the Ascension
Good morning Prayer Team!
As we wind down these reflections that took us through Lent, Holy Week, the Paschal Season and now the Ascension, pointing us towards Pentecost and beyond, let’s review a few of the topics we’ve covered in the journey, that today’s scripture reminds us of.
First, moments of uncertainty are part of any Christian journey. In today’s verses, we see the Disciples gazing up towards heaven, wondering what the Ascension meant. In fact, they were probably wondering “What just happened?”
Secondly, in our moments of uncertainty, God speaks to us. Sometimes it is in ways that are obvious, like two men standing in white robes who spoke to the Disciples. Sometimes God speaks through people or through other means, signs, etc. And sometimes God speaks in ways that are not so obvious. But He does speak, and in order to hear Him, we have to be listening. We have to have eyes that are open to seeing messages, ears that are open to receiving them, minds that are open to understanding them, and most especially hearts that are open to accepting them. God most definitely speaks. It is often us who fail to listen.
Third, the two men questioned the Disciples and asked, “Why do you stand looking into heaven?” I read this to mean, “Why are you standing there looking confused? There is work to do, so stop standing around and go do it.”
Fourth, we are told that Jesus will come back again the same way that the Disciples saw Him go. He will come in glory. In the Creed we say “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the death. And in Matthew 25: 31-46, we read that the Lord will come again and judge all the nations.
The message for today is “Don’t just stand around staring and wondering. Go and do something. Because Jesus is Lord, and He is coming back and when He does, He will judge each of us on what we have done with our lives.” So, we best get busy using our talents in ways that honor Him and help out one another. Which goes back to the message of the two great commandments—that we are to love God and one another. And we are to do this using the unique talents He gave each of us, knowing that we will one day stand before Him as our judge when He returns in glory to judge us all.
Staring at the heavens is not an entirely useless thing either though. While I don’t stare up at the skies looking perplexed very often, I do gaze on them in awe, because God created the skies and everything that is under them. My place in the universe is very insignificant in the magnitude of God. Yet in the eyes of God, my place is as important as anyone else’s place, since I, and each of us, is of infinite value in His eyes.
Staring at the heavens reminds me that I am not the center of the universe, that One who is much greater than me made me, and that my purpose in life is to honor my Creator, so that one day, just as Christ ascended into heaven, that the clouds of the skies will part and the gates of heaven will be open. So that as Christ entered and sat at the right hand of the Father, I may one day as well.
So, stare and ponder, but DO as well!
The men of Galilee, watching as You were taken up from the Mount of Olives with Your Body, O Logos, heard the voice of Angels who cried out to them, saying “Why do you stand and look? This Jesus, henceforth incarnate, will come again, in the same way as you saw Him go. (From the Praises of Ascension, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Ponder on the things of God today. Serve God and serve others today!
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