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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

June, 2012

One of the most disappointing things about missing Easter Sunday and the balloons is that I probably won’t get a chance to see them again next year. Helium is a non-renewable resource and it is becoming more and more expensive. Because of this, there probably won’t be any helium-filled balloons next year or ever. This year was my last chance and I missed it. So I’m going to milk it for all it’s worth and get two columns out of it.

It an be difficult to “let go.” This is as true of me as it is of anyone. It was hard to leave  the security of home and go away to college, even if it was only about forty miles. Even today, I live within seventy five miles of my home town. It was difficult when my wife, Charlotte, and I moved from our apartment into a house. It was hard to hear our nineteen-year-old daughter, Monica, say that she had decided to “move out.”

This might give us a different understanding of Peter’s actions in Matthew, chapter 16. When Jesus told the disciples “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matt.16:21b ESV), it was too much for poor Peter. He said to Jesus, “No, master, you’ve got it wrong. We can’t let that happen.” (a paraphrase of vs. 22b). Perhaps Peter didn’t want their time together to end. We know he didn’t want to lose his friend. But Jesus replied, “‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’” (vs. 23b ESV). Jesus tells his disciples—including us—“‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” (vs. 24-25 ESV).

As I pointed out previously, the whole point of the balloons is to let them go (“Person-2-Person,” May, 1997). The whole point of Jesus’ life on Earth was for him to die, be resurrected, and return to the Father. When Mary Magdalene recognized the risen Jesus on that first resurrection morning, she was astonished and overjoyed (John 20:16). She probably threw her arms around him, because he said to her, “‘Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’” (vs. 17 ESV). No sooner had he returned to her than he was talking about leaving again, this time for good. Her grief had changed to joy and then to sadness.

Luke continues the story beyond the Gospels in the book of Acts. Jesus appeared to the disciples on various occasions and in various places over a period of forty days (Acts 1:3). Finally, he called the disciples together for the last time on the hill outside Jerusalem called the Mount of Olives (vs. 12) and then
“. . . as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (vs. 9b ESV). They continued staring up at the sky until a pair of angels appeared and said, essentially, “What are you doing staring at the sky? Get busy!” (a paraphrase of vs. 21).

And so, they got busy. They returned to Jerusalem, to the place where Thomas and the other disciples had encountered Jesus (vs. 13; John 20:19, 26), and joined together in prayer (vs. 14a). Initially, they thought Jesus’ death was the end. Then they thought the resurrection was the end. Finally, they thought his ascension was the end. But all these things, all these events, were the barest beginning.

We have proof that the balloons’ journey doesn’t end when they pass out of sight. Our church has received letters from people in other states, who found the balloons, the most recent from a nine-year-old boy who lives 120 miles away, in Galatia, Illinois. Our own journey can’t end when we release the balloons either. It’s only the barest beginning for us. We can’t keep staring into the sky, where the balloons used to be. At some point, we have to get busy.

“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:9-11 ESV.)

Copyright © 2012 by David Phelps