We refer to the Ascension of the Lord every time we recite the Profession of Faith or say the Apostles’ Creed; “I believe … in Jesus Christ … who … ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”
Some people have problems believing in Jesus’ ascension because the narrative assumes a three-storied universe: 1) a solid dome of heaven above the earth; 2) the flat earth; 3) the waters of the deep and the underworld of the dead, often called Hades or Hell.
We have to understand that the inspirited authors of scripture could only describe reality as they understood the world to be. They had a much different understanding of our world than we do.
They pictured heaven spatially “up” above the great super dome in the sky. The sun, the moon, and the stars were fixed to the top of this dome and all the stars revolved around the earth. Since they did not have our view of the universe, we have to “translate” what they were trying to tell us. Heaven is not “up”; it is a different state of being or dimension. Heaven is being with God and God is everywhere, so heaven is not confined to a particular place.
What ultimately happened on the day we call the Ascension was that Jesus in his resurrected body, after spending 40 days (a biblical expression that means a long while) “speaking about the kingdom of God,” told his followers they would not see him again. He returned to the Father and passed on his work to his followers.
Jesus was with the Father the moment he died. Remember what he said to the Good Thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus was with the Father the moment he died.
In John’s gospel, John infers that Jesus’ resurrection, ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit happened on the same day. When he returned and appeared to his followers, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He worked with his followers during this 40-day period and then he told them “good-bye.” They would now have to continue his work.
The Ascension reminds us of our role.
In Matthew’s gospel Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We must act as Jesus did – taking his love, grace, and mercy into our world.
Our desire to build a better world compels us to do “something.” We should be willing to give up some of our free time so that we can help others who need our presence as a hospital visitor, a friend to the elderly or disabled, a reader for the blind or the youth, or any of a hundred other ways in which we can make life better for somebody. When we do this, we are helping to build the kingdom of God, the kingdom of hope and love.
We know that everything is not what it should be – in our marriages, our friendships, our government, our Church, our work, our world. We cannot strive for perfection in our lifetime, but we can, with God’s help, bring our lives and our world closer to reflecting God’s love.
Jesus trusted us to continue his work of making this world a better place to live. Our Loving God wants to work with us to carry out this task. Let’s do the work we were commissioned to do!
Posted on Fri, May 22, 2015
by Rev. Wilmer L. Todd