Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Thursday, May 18, 2023

YEAR A 2023 ascension evensong

Ascension Evensong, 2023
Acts 1:1-11
Ephesians 1:15-23
Luke 24:44-53
Psalm 47

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The Ascension of Jesus.  Some will say it is a literal, factual event.  Some will say it is a metaphor for something else.  Some will say it’s completely made up by Luke the Evangelist.  But everyone will agree:  it is a mystery.

There are paintings, but no photographs.  There are Luke’s accounts in his gospel and the book of Acts, but no newspaper accounts.  Maybe it happened just as Luke described; maybe not.  People will honestly disagree about the veracity of it, but the importance of it remains, nonetheless.  And yet, if we’re truly honest, even the importance of it will be different for different people.  So I’m just going to go ahead and tell you what I think, acknowledging that your mileage may vary.  

And I guess what I’m going to say to you is more like a logic puzzle than it is a theological position.  So . . . 

After Jesus rises from the grave—in whatever physical form that was—he was once again in a body that was located in a particular place and time.  Standing on the shore in Galilee, talking to his his disciples.  If not for the Ascension, we would all be able to say, “Jesus is in Galilee.”  Which would mean, Jesus is not in Massillon, or Chicago, or Paris.  Just as you cannot be sitting in this room tonight while also being in Los Angeles, having a physical form in time and space means you cannot be two places at once.  (To the nit-pickers, I am leaving quantum physics out of this example, so don’t @ me.)

So, if the physically resurrected Jesus cannot be in two places at once, and if we know he is in one place, then that means he cannot be in another place at the same time.  If Jesus is in Montreal, he cannot be in Massillon.  Which is why the Ascension of Jesus changes everything.

Because—no matter what you believe about this story being literal, metaphorical, or mythical—the Ascension of Jesus means that he is able to be anywhere at any time.  Only by departing from us can he be present among us.  Only by leaving this world can he be in this world.  Just as he can only be resurrected by first dying, Jesus can only be with us by leaving us

I know.  It’s heady stuff.  But my main point is this:  The Ascension of Jesus is not a sign that he has abandoned us.  To the contrary, the Ascension of Jesus means that he is with us, everywhere, all the time.  By returning to the Father, Jesus can be with you, with me, with everyone.  He is no longer trapped in one place at one time.  He is—as the title of the movie says—Everything Everywhere All At Once.

We cannot fully and honestly understand the Ascension.  But together, like the disciples, we look up into the sky, knowing that Jesus is still with us, and trusting that Jesus will return to gather us together with the living and the dead, to a resurrected life, with the source of all life.


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