Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit


This Sunday is both Mother’s Day and Ascension Sunday. It is always a struggle when a cultural holiday competes with a church holiday. We often adhere to Hallmark in our celebrations. However, Jesus’ ascension is a crucial part of God’s story; we will focus on Luke 24 this week in worship.

I find the Ascension an intriguing story. Think about all the disciples had experienced. They journeyed with Jesus to Jerusalem in light of great threats. Jesus told them that he would be killed and rise again. Yet when it happened, it all seemed a surprise to them. The emotional roller coaster must have been traumatic. But now they have had forty days to settle down. Jesus has helped them understand how his life, death and resurrection are a part of God’s story since the beginning of time. Luke describes,

(Acts 1:3 NIV) After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

How I wish we had this series of sermons. Can you imagine learning about the kingdom of God from the risen Christ? Jesus’ followers must have felt empowered. They must have felt ready to conquer the world. I don’t know about you, but I would be eager to get things done. Excited about the kingdom of God, the disciples must have been antsy to get going. But Jesus assures them that they lack a fundamental component of their calling.

(Acts 1:4 NIV) On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

They might think they are ready to venture into the world, but they are missing a vital element. Jesus requires them to stand by. He instructs them to stay in town. In verse 8, Jesus gives them more information.

(Acts 1:8 NIV) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

It will happen; the disciples will bring the message of Jesus to the entire known world. And while they might have considered themselves prepared, they were advised to stay put.

As our churches discern, we often step out ahead of God’s promptings. Be it a new church fad or a clever marketing scheme, we regularly act without the Holy Spirit. As we consider the Ascension of Jesus, we must remember his instructions to his followers. He warns them of premature action and urges them to wait for God to act. May we learn to wait, to listen, to allow God to do his work before we move.