Triumphant Living #3 in the Series
When I was in college and in Seminary, one of the big questions which was debated over and over again among students was, if the professor’s late, how long do we have to wait? All the universities had different standards. In seminary, since most of the professors had their doctorates, it was proper to wait 20 minutes. I read that at one university the custom was that if a professor was ten minutes late, class was canceled.
Well, a professor arrived early one morning for a 9:00 a.m. lecture. He walked into the room and placed his hat on his desk, and then went to the faculty room. Before he knew it, it was 9:10 and by the time he got back to his classroom, it was empty.
It made him mad and so the next day he made it very clear to his students, “If my hat is here, I’m here!”
The next day this the professor arrived at 9:00 a.m. As he walked into the classroom he was greeted by the sight of 28 hats on 28 desks–and no students. (1)
Today is Ascension Sunday, the day we remember the Ascension of Jesus. The setting is after the Resurrection. And for the last 40 days Jesus has appeared to the Disciples on numerous occasions. In those appearances he had to prove he wasn’t a ghost and then remind them of all He had taught them. Acts 1:6-14 tells the story. WATCH
In a sense, Jesus puts His hat on the desk and says, “You remember the mission, right? To spread the Good News throughout all the world, starting here, right? Stay here in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes upon you and fills you with the power to do what I’ve instructed you to do. My hats on the desk which means, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” And then he ascended in the clouds.
As the story continues, while the Disciples were Looking Up two angels appeared to them and asked, “Why are you standing here looking up toward heaven?”
Well, that’s the question I want us to look at because in essence, our Christian walk of life and faith is all about Looking Up Toward Heaven. That’s where we get our guidance, right? From heaven; from God; from Christ? Right? But what the angels were reminding us and the Disciples about is that our Mission is about Looking Up While Looking Down. Before we go any further I need to tell what Looking Up While Looking Down ISN’T.
I. NOT THIS:
Looking Up While Looking Down IS NOT about Looking Down Our Noses at others or sitting in judgment of others. And boy, Christians are so good at that aren’t we. If Judging Others were an Olympic sport, we’d win a Gold Medal hands down. The only thing we’re better at might be gossip. We’d sweep that sport, Gold, Silver and Bronze. And we can do it and couch it in such beautiful language. All the time faining deep concern.
The Blind Side is one of my favorite movies. It’s an incredible true story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American teenager from a broken home, who is taken in by the Touhys, a well-to-do white family who not only help him fulfill his potential. But learn to love him as family. They eventually adopt him as their son. At the same time, Michael’s presence deepens their love for each other and expands their lives in ways no one ever expected. There’s a great scene that deals with this idea of judging and looking down our noses. WATCH
Looking Up While Looking Down IS Definitely NOT THIS. Looking Up While Looking Down IS NOT about Looking Down Our Noses at others or sitting in judgment of others. When you look down your nose at someone you can’t see Jesus. When you look down your nose at someone your heart is pointed in the wrong direction.
The angels told the Disciples to quit gazing into the heavens because they thought they would get stuck there and never want to leave. Never carrying out Jesus last words to go into all the world proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
II. BUT THIS:
A. Looking Up While Looking Down IS NOT about looking down our noses. BUT IT IS about a life of humility. It is about a life spent on our knees. Not literally of course, but a life that is filled with prayer for both friends and loved ones but also for our enemies (as hard as that is).
Looking Up While Looking Down is simply another way to think about humility. With our hearts and minds, our souls and spirits pointed heavenward, we can look at others with the eyes of Christ, eyes that don’t judge; eyes that show compassion. Looking Up While Looking Down is one of the ways we express our love for God.
The 1987 movie The Princess Bride, is fairy tale, with pirates and swordplay; giants and monsters; there’s an evil prince and a beautiful princess; and yes, there’s even some kissing. The opening of the story which the Grandfather reads to his grandson is a good example of humility born of love.
Buttercup lives on a farm in the fairy-tale kingdom of Florin. She delights in ordering the farm hand Westley to perform chores for her. Westley’s only answer is “As you wish.” Eventually Buttercup realizes he really means “I love you”, and she admits her love for him. Westley soon leaves to seek his fortune so that they can marry.
It is through Westley’s humble service and his comment “as you wish” that Buttercup comes to realize how much Westley truly loves her. And it’s through his humble service that Buttercup realizes her love for Westley.
Westley’s humble servant heart, broke down Buttercup’s haughty attitude. Westley’s servant heart broke down the walls that separated them. Westley’s humility and the deep love he had for Buttercup despite being used, eventually changed everything.
And that’s how we are to live. We’re called to Look Up While Looking Down. We’re called to tune our hearts and minds, our souls and spirits heavenward. We’re called to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God while looking at others with the eyes and the heart and the Spirit of Christ.
B. That’s why prayer is so important. That’s why it’s important to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. When we pray for them we re-humanize them instead of demonizing them. And when you re-humanize your enemies, you realize that God loves them with the same passion and compassion, the same mercy and grace which God has for you.
Besides, it not what we do in prayer that counts. It’s not so much the words we pray, the position we take, where we pray or even the model of prayer we use. It’s simply the fact that we take time to pray. When we humble ourselves before God in prayer it retunes our heart, mind, soul, and strength. It aims them Heavenward. Looking Up While Looking Down in prayer allows God to work in our lives.
Wesley taught that prayer is one of the Means of Grace through which our Christian characters are being formed. He taught that it’s not so much what we do when we pray or take communion or worship or participate in any other of the Means of Grace. What’s important in these practices is what God does and how God shapes us and leads us when we do them.
They draw us closer to Christ. And because of this Wesley thought we ought to seize every opportunity to be with the risen Christ. We are called to live a Christian life which Looks Up While Looking Down.
I read a funny story that came out of Hollywood years ago. It seems a very famous, very handsome and very single movie star checked into a hospital. As might be expected, every nurse in the hospital was very attentive to his needs.
One particularly attractive nurse was at his side nearly every time he moved. When he finally indicated that he would like to be alone for a little while she said, “Now if you want or need anything at all you have to do is pull this cord.”
The movie star gave his irresistible smile and said, “Thank you, my dear, but what is the cord attached to?”
She smiled back and answered, “Me.” (2)
We are connected to Jesus like that movie star was connected to his nurse. Looking Up While Looking Down keeps us connected.
A life of service and humility is a direct result of Looking Up While Looking Down. A life of service and humility which Looks Up While Looking Down allows us to approach the Table this morning. Jesus may not physically be in the Classroom but the Bread and Wine of the Sacrament remind us that He IS with us.
Our worship, our prayer, our fellowship, the Bread and Wine of Communion, all of these Means of Grace keep us connected to Jesus. They keep us Looking Up While Looking Down in order that we might carry out the Great Commission.
Looking Up While Looking Down is not a call to think less of yourself. It’s a call to think more of Jesus. It’s a call to retune you heart, soul, mind and strength and aim them heavenward so you can serve Jesus and be about the work of the Kingdom. The work of making disciples for the transformation of the world.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Reader’s Digest, January 2005, pg. 54.
2. In a sermon on sermons.com