"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." - Acts 1: 8
It's graduation season. Caps and gowns, pomp and circumstance. Smiles and degrees. A huge sense of expectation held at bay with alcohol.
And the speeches. The commencement speakers tell the young, "You're amazing. You're awesome. You've got what it takes. You're the best and the brightest, the leaders for a new generation." Which would drive any sane person to drink.
I wonder how graduation might go if the speaker said, "Listen, not gonna lie to you, you actually don't have what it takes. Neither do I. Nor do all the professors here arrayed before you. If you're feeling a little anxious today, good. You should be. But listen, you and I aren't left to your own resources alone. There's an amazing holy power at work in the world. A power that God pours out on those who ask, those who trust. No, despite what the college says, you ain't all that, but God is."
Our text for today, Ascension Day, is another sort of "graduation." Only it's Jesus who is flying up. In the forty days since the resurrection he has been teaching and preparing the apostles. Now, he's leaving and entrusting the new chapter to them.
He doesn't say, "You've got what it takes." Sort of the opposite. He says, you haven't got what it takes . . . you need to wait, to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon you.
There are many times, and big moments, in our lives, when we wonder if we are up to the challenge, up to what lies ahead. Do we have what it takes to do the things the world needs doing? The tendency is to suck it up and tell ourselves, or for others to tell us, "Don't worry, you've got what it takes."
It would be truer and wiser counsel to say, "Don't be ridiculous -- you actually don't have what it takes and neither do I. But God does. God has the power you will need and she will not refuse to lend. Ask for the power you need, and wait for its coming. It will come, I promise."
For the beautiful, terrified, hopeful and trembling graduates, we do pray this day. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.