Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Ascension of Our Lord

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. 8But 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 towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards 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.'

Acts 1:6-11
The Feast of the Ascension is something of a lost festival. Churches used to have special weeknight worship services to celebrate it. Nobody pays much attention to it anymore.

Part of the problem is the difficulty we have as post modern folk with the image of Jesus taking off as if he had jet rockets attached to his feet. Perhaps we think of it as a sad day. It seems a cruel trick that they get their beloved Lord back for a short 40 days, only to have him leave them again.

But Jesus did not leave them. We have these difficulties because we think of heaven and earth as different locations in the same space and time. N. T. Wright in his "Surprised by Hope – Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church" says we need to understand heaven and earth to be different dimensions of God's creation. 

I think the Eastern Orthodox icons of the Ascension do a much better job of portraying the "other" dimension than does Western artistic images of Jesus floating up the sky.

So that when the risen Christ "ascends" to his heavenly throne at the right hand of God, he has not left us at all. In fact he has entered a dimension where he is accessible to all of us, regardless of where on earth we are. On earth, Christ is only available to his disciples in first century Palestine. Ascended to his Father, Jesus is available to believers of all times and places

…the ascension therefore means that Jesus is available, accessible, without people having to travel to a particular spot on earth to find him. Second, heaven is as it were the control for earth; it is the CEO's office, the place from which instructions are given "All authority is given to me, 'said Jesus at the end of Matthew's gospel, "in heaven and on earth" (pg 111)
I think this is also the vision in Revelation – where the saints gather to worship God – it is not some future place – it is reality now. Wright argues and I agree that the biblical view of salvation is when God joins and heaven and earth. Christ's ascension is the beginning of that joining of heaven and earth, future and present.

Heaven is not far away in the sky – it is as close as our prayers.

Almighty God, your only Son was taken up into heaven and in power intercedes for us. May we also come into your presence and live forever in your glory, though you Son, Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment