“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” (Acts 1:12-14)
In the days after Jesus ascends into heaven, I’d have expected the disciples to get a sudden burst of energy. After all, Jesus promises them that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit that would make them witnesses to the resurrection – in Judea, Samaria, and all the ends of the earth. They’ve been given a charge – and they’ve been given work to do! And they’ve been promised power and given authority – seriously, what’s not to be excited about? But scripture tells us disciples’ response is not to jump headlong into action, but to respond to Jesus’ command to wait in Jerusalem. And so they return to the upper room – to devote themselves to prayer. They return and gather; eat and pray; and in this light, they await the coming of the Holy Spirit that empowers them to be Jesus’ Witnesses. Their energy, their excitement – is channeled into prayer.
The Ascension is a poignant reminder that God’ mission is given into our hands. Pentecost is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that we will receive power, and never be alone as we strive for the Kingdom of God. But for the moment we dwell in a space between – in that upper room with the disciples – gathering, waiting, watching, and praying. Is not that liminal space – that time between Ascension and Pentecost, between charge and empowerment – where we live so much of our lives? That space where on the one hand we know where Jesus is calling us to go, and yet still we search for the grace and power to get there?
Grace and power will come to the church at Pentecost; grace and power will come to us in little Pentecosts that occur throughout our lives. But the charge to us – each time we meet these transitional moments – remains the same as it was to the disciples: return home. Gather together. Watch together. Pray together. And prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Consider the “in between” moments of your own life – those places where you sit knowing where you must go, but still waiting the power to get there. Who do you gather with? How do you pray? And how has the Holy Spirit become manifest in your life?