Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | June 1, 2011

Beam me up, Scotty

While staying with them, [Jesus] ordered [the disciples] not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. …So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.  They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”  From Acts 1

I have to admit there was some comic relief in the fact that the rapture didn’t happen on May 21, as a fringe fundamentalist Christian group had predicted. I may have even made a few jokes about it from the pulpit.

There is, though, some appeal to the getting-out-of-Dodge syndrome. The night before the big exam or year-end job review. When the boyfriend or girlfriend schedules a talk about “where this relationship is headed.” Tax day. Wouldn’t it be something to be sucked out of your existence here right at the moment when the state trooper pulls you over for speeding in a construction zone? To end up in a place that is all goodness and light just as the mugger demands your wallet? Not to have to go through another presidential election season which has already begun 18 months out?

The disciples thought so. They could see the handwriting on the wall. After what had happened to Jesus, how could they hope for a happy future? They were starting to hold their meetings behind locked doors for a reason. They wanted to know if things were about to get better because maybe—just maybe—Jesus really was going to bring down the Romans. And so they asked him. His less-than-straightforward reply was, in essence, “Nope.”

“You have some work to do,” he said, and then he was taken from them.

And there they stood, looking up. Wishing, I’m sure, that they could’ve been taken, too. Maybe like Elijah in the fiery chariot. Or just on a cloud, like Jesus. Really, a cloud would have been fine. But a couple of guys showed up and asked them why they were just standing there.

Whatever and whenever our end might be, it isn’t yet. We can spend our time wishing, dreaming of a world to come, or we can see what’s right in front of us. We can look up, or we can look around. We can hope in a life to come in the future, or we can realize that hope also has a quality of immediacy.

So, yes, Christian faith is all about hope. But it is also all about the now. “You have some work to do,” said Jesus. We’d best get started.


  1. I think it was Reinhold Niebuhr who drew a sharp distinction between optimism and hope. Anyway, it was the late historian and cultural critic, Christopher Lasch, who drew me to it. For both, optimism is the idea that everyday in every (important) way things are getting better–and should keep on getting better. Former President Wethington gave essentially the same speech to the University Senate each year telling us how great UK was and how it was getting better with each passing day. I thought that brand of optimism too easy–and to cheap an attitude for people at the pinnacle.

    Hope, on the other hand, does not assume a necessary linear projection like optimism. In fact, conditions can be quite dismal and uncertain and yet hope need not be… a false hope. For Niebuhr and Lasch, what the modality of hope says however is that things circumstances can come together–usually when we work hard to pull them to into alignment–and bring about the thing or things we hope for. No guarantees are implied, but it is better than being a fatalist!

    I don’t know whether I am a religious person because I am a hopeful individual–or I am a hopeful person because I am a religious person. I just know that I am a hopeful person even when I face difficult or troubling circumstances. Maybe you can still be a hopeful person without being a religious person. But for me having hope and religion in a partnership suits me nicely, thank you. Thanks for your blog entry and for kindling thoughts about hope as work and hope as possibility!

  2. Thanks, Ernie.

  3. Love your blog…I too wrote about beaming up. The Lord wants us to do His will down here while we wait for the transport. God bless you as you honor Him with your beautiful writings.

  4. […] Melissa Bane Sevier writes at Contemplative Viewfinder, “Whatever and whenever our end might be, it isn’t yet. We can spend our time wishing, dreaming of a world to come, or we can see what’s right in front of us. We can look up, or we can look around. We can hope in a life to come in the future, or we can realize that hope also has a quality of immediacy.” […]

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