Stay here until...
|"Waiting" by Degas|
Stay here until...
Stay here until what is coming next comes.
What has been is ending. What will be is coming.
Until it does, stay here.
Luke uses this story of the Ascension to end part one of his letters, the part that talks about Jesus being here in body, the book of Luke. And then in his second letter, Acts, he tells this encounter again to open part two, the part that talks about us being Jesus’ body, the part that tells the beginning of the church. From Christ in flesh to Christ enfleshed in community, the Ascension is the end of the story of God alongside, with and for, and Pentecost is the beginning of the story of God in and through and between.
And in between those two is this important command, Stay here until…
Waiting sucks. It can make us feel so helpless and awkward.
Stay here until…
We’d so much rather just jump in and do, than sit still and be. Any day.
Stay here in the quiet house until your kid gets home late with the car.
Stay here by the bedside until he takes his final breath.
Stay here in the maddening unknown until you finally know what to do next.
Saying stay here and wait is like saying, stop moving and remember that that you are vulnerable and life is unpredictable, and you have very little control of any of it.
And it’s true. When we stay here until, we are surrendering to reality.
And ironically, it is only when we surrender, that we discover we are free. Free from the need to run it all ourselves, free from the need to be strong and able, free from the need to never fail. Then, when God finally does arrive with power from on high, we will know for certain that it is not our power, it’s not own work, wit or wisdom, that saves the world, but only the one who holds all, even us, and we’ll be ready to receive it.
When we surrender in the stay here until, we grow the kind of restraint only staying somewhere until can produce – the restraint that keeps us from rushing at it and grabbing hold too soon –taking out the half-baked dough, digging up the planted bulb tearing open the unresponsive cocoon.
This waiting cultivates a discipline in us to accept what God brings, to go where God leads, and to participate in God’s intentions. When we’ve surrendered we are opened to being used in whatever ways God dreams up – which is often far beyond what our limited imaginations and rampant insecurities might have concocted for our own futures.
Staying here until is also a way of arriving in our own lives, to await the God who arrives. It’s honest. The truth is that being human is kind of one big stay here until. We’re born, we live and we die stuck between what has been and what will be. We live longing for more, sensing we’re made for something greater. We love wishing we could guard our beloveds from pain and yearning for the end of evil. We act for justice and pray for peace right in the midst of violence and cruelty, craving the true and final justice and redemption of the world. From our first breath to our last, we exist and pass our days and years inside a promise, waiting for its fulfillment.
Our own lives are the place God arrives, they are the place we’ve been called to stay and await the arrival of God’s Spirit, over and over again.
As Jesus prepares to leave the disciples, he raises his scarred hands up and blesses them, these people he loves so deeply, and says to them:
Now I am going back to the heart of the Father I am returning to the source of love, having loved you and been loved by you. I take with me all this heart-breaking, pain-sharing, flesh-bearing life. I take with me all the tears and the bruises and the breathing and living and the gut-splitting laughing and soul-wrenching suffering I have been privileged to share with you in this life. It all goes with me into God.
And I am sending on you what the Father promised, so stay here… until you are clothed with power from on high.
And while he was blessing them he was taken into heaven.
At this point when Luke tells this scene again at the beginning of Acts, the disciples are a little more discombobulated and skeptical, and an angel has to show up and tell them to stop staring at the sky. But in this version, even though they’re left in total unknown and undefined waiting, when all that has been is over and all that will be remains a mystery, they return to the temple and hang out celebrating.
Because perhaps after a 40 days like they’ve just had, eating and talking and walking and learning and living on the other side of death with the Resurrected source of life, after hearing what they’ve just heard and seeing what they’ve just seen, they’re ruined for anything other than the Real.
They’ve died to the old. So as witnesses to resurrection, waiting to be resurrected themselves, they do the only thing that make any sense, they stay here until…
Where are you being asked to stay here until...?
What honesty does the experience invite you into?
How have you experienced surrender? Or, where do you feel resistance to it?