Jesus, we saw last week is, by the Holy Spirit, always with us! But simple COMPANIONSHIP is not enough! As the ‘Ascended One’ we are reminded that Jesus with us now represents all the holiness of God which is now with us!
Luke writes in physical terms of Christ’s ascension to make the point that this Jesus whom they had come to know as their Rabbi, their leader, this One whom we first met as an infant born into poverty, who walked and taught and lived and blessed and healed and challenged, and who was then betrayed and killed, but who rose from the dead, and appeared to over 550 people, THIS ONE – is now also THE ASCENDED CHRIST – & IS ONE WITH GOD!
Paul and other New Testament writers pick up on that ‘ascended’ status, describing how Jesus having left the disciples looking up into the heavens[i], and ascended into the heights[ii], is now associated with ‘the things that are above’[iii] and is ‘above all the heavens that he might fill everything’[iv], ‘the Christ taken up in glory’[v], and is seated ‘at the right hand of the Father’[vi] above every ruler and authority and power and angelic power…now and in the future’[vii]
We haven’t got the whole story of Jesus until we get this! And that this is the One who, by the Spirit, is now also with us! While most may be happy to think of Jesus as a Teacher or Role Model/Good Man, first his Resurrection & now his Ascension affirms that he is SO very much more than just that! Christ is God with us – EMMANUEL, as well as with all of creation – revealing our truest nature as being essentially good and of God and in God!
Just as God – in the incarnate Christ – has come INTO all the world, SO HERE – in the Ascended Christ – we see God drawing all of creation UP into the very holiness of God!
This is a truth that we probably don’t need to know while things are good and going well for us. Instead, as Will Willimon writes, it’s a truth that we need when things are not so good: It’s for…those days when the sky turns dark, and storm clouds gather, or the earth shifts under us, and we have that feeling that we are slipping out of control – and can do nothing about it.
That’s when we need to know that the ONE who is utterly with us, who knows every detail of our circumstances, is also the ONE CREATOR AND SUSTAINER of all creation – and the One WHO stays in control!
After[viii] a senseless act of gun violence, the powerful city mayor showed up on the scene. The people, in their grief and anguish, took out their anger on her. The last thing they wanted was for City Hall to use their tragedy as a political opportunity. And so they shouted harsh judgments as she emerged from the car. Then the police handed her a bullhorn and she spoke:
“I am here today, not as your mayor, but as somebody who, to some degree, can personally understand what you’re going through.” Many thought it sounded cheap…
But the mayor continued, “My little brother was gunned down when he was only 14. That was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life. It changed everything.
In fact, the reason I ran for office and wanted to be in public service was my pitiful attempt to bring some good out of the terrible wrong that was done to him.” The crowd grew quiet as they realized that, just maybe, this powerful person did indeed understand them. She had been there, and truly knew what they were going through.
We should, take that as a kind of parable about the significance of the Ascension of Jesus.
This One who reigns, the One who sits upon the throne of God, knows and understands.
He has been here – and he is here, with us, bringing all of the holy and comforting and empowering grace of the Living God! AND THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING!
Christ’s post-crucifixion Resurrection & Ascension isn’t just a promise for what may happen to us one day after we die, it’s about our being given a whole new appreciation of life NOW, while we live! …it’s perhaps ESPECIALLY about now! It’s about Christ’s opening of our hearts/minds to how God would have us be – enabling us to embrace all of this with new eyes, fresh appreciations, awesome wonder! ‘THIS ‘Christ-with-us’ IS WHO WE ARE – it’s WHERE WE ARE! AND THROUGH CHRIST we are beginning to ‘get’ how IT’S ALL SACRED!
The book of Revelation describes our fresh appreciation of A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH, without all the odiously exclusive and tribal separations that we so easily create:…a world without categories of ‘in and out’, ‘good and bad’, ‘religious and not religious’.
…a world where, instead, we begin to see it all around us as the Mystics do – where Christ’s holiness and beauty has permeated everywhere, and how it’s for everyone…
That’s what St Francis’ was writing about almost 800 years ago in his beautiful canticle ‘Brother Sun and Sister Moon’ – where he was given to see how we are all connected – in Christ descended it’s God with us and in Christ ascended it’s us with God…
The real miracle are those times when we are actually given to glimpse it…
Have you ever seen the wonder, In the glimmer of first sight
As the eyes begin to open, And the blindness meets the light
If you have so say…
I see the world in light, I see the world in wonder
I see the world in life, Bursting in living colour
I see the world Your way O God… I see the world Christ’s way…
And I’m walking in the light[ix]
But the reality is that for so much of our lives, for so much of us, we are not able to see this – not yet! And we probably won’t be able to, until God decides it’s time – is that perhaps initially at least part of what we call ‘The Second Coming?’ I’m speaking about our awareness of the Risen and Ascended Christ who is now with us and with all of creation…
While we DO await the fullest possible realization of all this, our job – as Christ-Followers – is to embrace it as we are able, and to live into that as we are given to do so – that’s what the Church’s MISSION and purpose is all about!
Today’s passage ends with such beauty:
50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.
51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.
52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;
53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
On this Ascension Sunday may we own that same blessing of Christ! And receiving that blessing, let’s anticipate the rising of joy from deep within us as those disciples experienced,
…and then may all our everyday living – at home, at work, just wherever we are – become as an appreciation of our being in a temple and bringing blessing to Our God!
Dear God, thank you that you, in the risen and ascended Christ,
are now by your Holy Spirit, also with us, within us…
Thank you for the comfort and healing hope that your presence brings
Thank you for the holy and sacred identity that you seal in to each of us and all of your creation…
We continue to thank you for the people and circumstances that you use to express and to reveal your presence, especially as you work through carers and workers through this pandemic…
Be very real to those who are suffering the most, we pray…
We pray your healing comfort, encouragement and hope for all whom you so love in this world, a world that you continue to create and to permeate…
In the name of the risen and Ascended Jesus Christ
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2020.
You are welcome to use, copy, edit or reproduce this sermon summary with copyright attached. Publication is prohibited.
[i] Acts 1:10,11
[v] 1 Tim.3:16
[vi] Eph. 1, Col.3, Heb.1
[viii] Paraphrased and adapted from a Willimon illustration