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Endings/Beginnings

I love endings.  I usually get very excited as the end of a big project, or class, or... fill in the blank.  I guess the reason for this is the opportunity to celebrate some achievement.  For example, last Sunday was Confirmation Sunday.  We confirmed ten youth-- three by baptism-- as official members of PUMC.  It was the fulfillment of more than six months of classes, field trips, prayers, and holy conversations. 

Two nights ago we celebrated the end of Disciple Bible Study.  The class began meeting weekly in mid-August, and me for 34 weeks together.  At the end of the class we shared the gifts we perceive in ourselves and heard from others their thoughts.  Then we shared goals for continuing in ministry at PUMC over the next year.

Last summer Christy and I traveled to Washington, D.C. for my graduation for my doctorate.  As wonderful as the three years together with my classmates were I could not wait to get to the commencement ceremony-- at the National Cathedral, no less-- and when the service was over, I was ready to move on to the next thing.  I didn't want to hang around too long.  I bet most of our graduating high school and college seniors are feeling the same way!

This Sunday is the day we commemorate the Ascension of Christ-- when he was lifted to heaven after commissioning the disciples to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven'  (Acts 1:6-11).

We affirm the importance of Christ's Ascension every time we read together the Apostles Creed: "he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God..."  The Ascension is an ending of Christ's ministry on earth.  He was born, grew up, taught, healed, and loved, died, was raised, an now he returns to his rightful place with God, where he intercedes on our behalf.  It is the ultimate fulfilling of God's will and Christ's gracious life. 
Why do I love endings?  Because most of the time they lead to new beginnings.  Disciple ended the other night; a new class, and possibly a second course, will be offered this fall.  Confirmation Sunday marked an end to the class, but a beginning in the confirmands' relationship with Christ.  Lots of our regular programs are facing endings for the summer: Faithful Friends, Mission Possible Kids, PUMP... but there is the promise that they will begin again in a few months.  If Christ's ascension is an ending, it is also a beginning for the disciples: they are commissioned and sent into the world in ministry.

As we face this "season of endings," let's ask ourselves a few questions: What is God calling us to begin?  What are our expectations for the new thing(s) God is doing?  How do we see ourselves-- and our church-- as part of the ongoing creative work of God?  What role will you-- yes, i am thinking of YOU-- play in PUMC's upcoming new beginnings?

One last thought on the Ascension: The Gospel of Luke (24:44-53) tells us that Jesus took the disciples out to Bethany, and before returning to God, he blessed them, and as he was blessing them he was carried from their sight.  How do you think they responded to his Ascension?  Sorrow?  Nope.  Luke uses words like: worshiped, joy, and blessing God.  The disciples somehow understood the Ascension not as just an ending, but also as a beginning.  And not for someone else-- they understood their place in the ongoing work of God.

Do you? Do I? Does PUMC?

(Say "YES!")

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