He’s Not Up There

He’s Not Up There

Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”  Acts 1:11

Last weekend, Peggy and I attended a wedding reception for one of her relatives. It was a rainy day, which prompted Peg to comment, “This means they will have lots of cats.”  For the life of me, I have no idea what this means. Neither does she. It was just something her grandmother used to say about rain on a wedding day.

These kind of superstitions were foreign to me. Actually, I just thought they were limited to my wife’s family, until we moved to Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Dutch had all kinds of different superstitions, most of them religious. The ones I remember were associated with Ascension Day. The day the Church celebrates Jesus being taken up (ascending) into heaven.

Historically, in the Pennsylvania Dutch community, farmers were forbidden to work in the fields. Women and men were not allowed to sew on Ascension Day. (Many men sewed in PA Dutch homes.) People who did not adhere to these restrictions ran the risk of a lightning striking. Some said rain water collected on Ascension Day would cure eye and vision problems. While no one practiced these traditions, everyone knew them.

I’ll never figure out the meaning of cats, but the restriction of activity makes sense. It was an act of reverence to remember a significant event. The break from the daily routine helped laborers from becoming blind to the power of God. The associated punishment and the implied blessing for following the rules expressed a desire to experience this power. However, it also felt like they were  looking to the sky for the presence of God.

In our reading, two holy figures ask, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking to the heavens?” It seems like a silly question. They just watched Jesus be taken up into heaven. Who wouldn’t be looking up?

These words remind us of one fundamental lesson we learned from Jesus. That is, the home of God is among mortals. It is not somewhere out there in deep space, but down here, within the hearts of God’s creation. When the world seems to be coming unglued, whether personally or politically, I find comfort in knowing God is with us. In the midst of your busy day, it may be worth suspending work for a moment to remember, God is with you. It may help you see better.

Click to read: Acts 1: 1-11

Reflection Questions:

  • Did your family have any quirky sayings or superstitions? If so, what do they mean?
  • How often do you find yourself looking to the sky for Jesus?
  • What kind of comfort do you experience knowing the home of God is among mortals?
  • How do you remind yourself of God’s presence?
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