Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thoughts about Ascension Day

Although we will not be focusing upon the lessons for Ascension Day at our Sunday Worship, it is important to think about what this day means to us. 

Throughout the season of Easter, the resurrected Christ walked among the believers.  He spoke with them.  He ate with them.  He continued to reveal himself to the group. 

Then, forty days after Easter Sunday, we are told that he ascended into heaven.   The believers learned quickly that they would not find the Lord by standing still and gazing upwards.  Instead, the Holy Spirit in their midst would guide their eyes and ears toward Christ. 

With the Ascension, God's Love with us (Jesus) thousands of years ago slipped into and through time and space so that we in the 21st century can experience that same presence every moment of every day.  We can try to understand what happened (and continues to happen).  But our human understanding can't adequately grasp what God did.  Perhaps the best we can do is notice indicators of God's action.  A good bit of participating in a mystery involves looking for things that we can see that point to the event long after its occurrence.

Consider this: 

"The feast of the Ascension commemorates that day when the apostles and the entire community of faith was deprived of continued physical contact with the risen Lord. No longer would the Church have the comfort and support of direct association with the Master. Once the risen Lord was taken from their sight, the members of the Body of Christ themselves would have to comfort and support one another in His name. Because they could no longer see His face, they would have to become icons of Christ for each other. Once they were admonished for gazing up into the heavens, they would have to look into the eyes of their brethren to recognize His presence in all its distressing disguises. Once the Master was again seated at the right hand of the Father, they could no longer sit at His feet. Now they would have to listen for the sound of His voice in the teaching of their elders. Since the Lord was no longer physically in their midst, they had to depend on His word that he would be with them whenever two or more gathered in His name."
(from an Ascension Day sermon of Fr. Jerome Merchar, prior at the Abbey of the Genesee. )

As Jesus left the physical presence of the disciples, he had accomplished the mission of warming their hearts, infusing them with peace and opening their minds to Holy Scripture. Their further "progress" as messengers of Christ emerged, then, as they allowed their activities and relationships to point at all times and in all places to the amazing power and love released in the resurrection.  Together they could encourage one another to pay attention to Christ's constant presence (the Holy Spirit).  Together they could see more of God's Love than any one of them could see on their own.  Together they could speak and act in ways that unleash for others an experience of God (even if it was an experience that evaded understanding).

I wonder, how will this day provide opportunities for you to experience Christ's presence as you look into the eyes of another, or hear a word from an elder, or receive comfort and guidance from one God's children?

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