This homily for Ascension Sunday is based on John 24:46-53 and Acts 1:1-11.
The angels have a sense of humor. According to the account in Acts, after Jesus was lifted up out of their sight, the disciples–understandably–took a while to look away from the sky. We can imagine them standing there bewildered at the jaw-dropping event they had just witnessed.
And then, appearing out of nowhere, angels (“men dressed in white garments”) say to them:
“Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
I’m sure the angels were being ironic. But they have an important and sobering message for them. It’s the same message in a favorite Mary Oliver poem that my friend Bill Muller reminded me of recently, reciting the entire poem by heart.
The moment he said the first line, I smiled in recognition. The first time I read the poem, I burst out laughing because the message it offers us is so funny but true. It tells of the poet going to the beach on a particularly sad day in her life, hoping the ocean will show her what she ought to do. The sea does answer her, and as you shall see, like the angels, it too has a sense of humor.
The poem is called “I Go Down to the Shore,” and it goes: