Pastor John's Daily Briefing-5/21/2020

Pastor John's Daily Briefing-5/21/2020

Dear Sisters and brothers in Christ,


Today is Ascension Day! The ascension of Jesus is recorded in Acts, chapter 1. Upon giving further instructions to his disciples, Jesus is "lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight." As the disciples gaze up toward the heavens, two beings in white robes ask them, "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." The disciples then returned to Jerusalem , gathering together in prayer.


Since the Second Century, Christians have confessed the ascension in the Apostles' Creed: "He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God." St. Augustine wrote of the Feast of the Ascension being celebrated widely in the church of his day. In the year 384, a place in the Mount of Olives was venerated as the site of the ascension. In 390 the Chapel of the Ascension was constructed. 


Only the writer Luke (The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles) of all the gospel writers makes mention of the ascension. How are we now to understand the "Ascension" of Jesus? The writer Luke presumed a physical understanding of heaven as above and earth as below. He had no access to telescopes that would have allowed him to peer into the skies and the "heavenly" bodies light years away. Up was up and down was down. 


I do not believe that when Luke was writing his story of the Ascension of Jesus, he was informing the church of Jesus' escape from earthly reality, his removal from the mission and ministry begun in Galilee. Rather, it was to indicate that the risen Jesus continues to communicate God's will in a form different than what was experienced by the disciples in Jesus' physical presence with them. Now the church is called into action, an action of togetherness (koinonia), prayer, instruction and service.


So when we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus as the church today, we are not demarcating a divide of presence versus absence in spatial and temporal categories. God's activity in Christ Jesus is universal in scope, beyond the tight categories of space and time. So when we celebrate this story of Ascension, we are indicating the limitations of ourselves as being able to fully comprehend and articulate the manner in which the divine communication between Father and Son exists and continues in realms beyond our capabilities of knowing the boundaries of space and time. We are simply to know that even beyond our "seeing" God continues to be present to us in and though the risen Jesus. In the present, sometimes our vision of the risen Jesus is cloud-like, but his guidance continues to be made available to us in body and spirit.


Stay safe and keep steadfast in faith and hope!  Pastor John