The Ascension of the Lord
Acts 1, 1-11 X Psalm 47 X Ephesians 1, 17-23 X Luke 24, 46-53
May 8, 2016
If we take away all the dramatic imagery presented in these Gospel verses, the Ascension is really a home-coming story of completing one’s work and then being where one is meant to be. I feel sure that everyone here has some experience of this. For me it was the day when I packed up my things at the seminary and came back home for ordination. The work of preparation was done, and it was time to be where I was meant to be. This is an experience of discovering one’s destiny. At the same time, the Ascension is a love story about God’s love for humanity, our struggle to love God in return, and God’s promise to guide all things until everyone and everything are brought to where they need to be. These thoughts make me think of that wonderful old “Shaker” Hymn Simple Gifts with the verse that ends: “Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be.”
This feast today is about what is intended to happen in our life journey with God. This day invites us to discover or affirm the truth about who we are, connect with our Creator, and realize that our lives here and for all eternity are dependent upon a love relationship that we have with One greater than ourselves. When we do, we can understand that we could only be saved and brought back where we need to be by a God who saw fit to be born as one of us, encounter pain and suffering just like us, die as one day we must do, and then rise to show us firsthand that what he said was trustworthy, and finally ascend to his rightful place with the Father. That completes God’s work.
Those original disciples physically saw the risen Christ. He walked with them, talked and even ate with them. They saw him ascend to the Father. All of this brought them a deep conviction and confidence that never faltered. Now we are centuries removed from these events. It is easy to dismiss all of this as mere story or myth as many do. Without the real experience they had coming to such faith requires a choice, and it is a choice that everyone must make. Do we believe that we are here on this planet and as the person we are because of some random physiological or biological process that came together at some random moment providing us with what is? Or do we believe that we are here because we have been loved into existence by a God who chose for us to be here and be who we are with a soul that is unique and shared by no one else? If we choose the first, then nothing we do or say here makes any sense. If we choose the second, and continue to follow its truth, we are going to find ourselves stumbling upon the God who loves us. The bottom line is that God made us to be with him, and will make sure in the end that we are where we are meant to be. That is the power behind this feast.
The Ascension connects the dots. It brings us down where we ought to be. It brings things together and removes a dichotomy that can exist between the human and the divine, the secular and the sacred, and the great chasm that we sometimes wrongly believe exists between us and God. This feast brings us home. It brings this world home just as much as it brings Jesus home.
If we choose to live with the eyes of faith, all things are new. There is always hope and much more to be revealed for ourselves and for this world. Next week we celebrate the final act of that love in the gift of God’s very spirit, the Spirit of Love. Expect no powerful winds, and do go looking for tongues of fire. Look rather for the fruits of that Spirit in hearts that burn with love and hope, and with tongues that sing God’s praise, for one day we too shall be united with God as God promised. Make the choice and believe.