Jesus said to his disciples..."Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
-Luke 24: 46-53
Today is the Feast of the Ascension of Christ (you just read the story right there, from Luke). The Ascension is an event closely connected to the Christian vision of "the Kingdom of God", which I wrote about last week.
Like Jesus' birth story, the Ascension is not recounted in the earliest Gospel (Mark). It's seen by many as a later growth of the Jesus story; a way of witnessing (like the birth narratives) the reality of the permeability between God's Kingdom out beyond us and the Kingdom of God alive in Creation here and now. The Ascension is an apocalyptic ("revealing of Reality") experience, and the Reality that is revealed is the closeness of God.
This permeability, the access we have to God, is distinctive of Judaism, and in a slightly different way, of Christianity. It is how we can be bold to claim the possibility of personal relationship to God.
Someone asked me this week, "So, I think I get God as the Creator of everything. But what about Jesus? What about the Holy Spirit? How am I supposed to relate to them?"
This question brings joy to my heart. Because how could exploring that question bring anything but good discoveries and a fuller relationship to God along the way?
The Vestry actually responded to a similar question on our Retreat together last weekend. "Who do you say that Christ is? How do you relate to Christ?" Their answers were diverse, but all reflected the immanence, the closeness, of God in Christ; whether known in our worship, in neighbors, in nature, in the cosmos, or by an interior sense of God's will. It's this immanence we mark in the Feast of the Ascension. We make a "Feast" of it because Jesus traversing with grace the path between us and the Father, is worthy of a celebration; of praise, adoration, wonder, laughter, and awe. Sometimes God's presence is known in the cognitive, but in the image of Jesus "carried up into heaven," we give permission to our imaginative, emotional, and spiritual perception.
Amen, come Lord Jesus by heavenly paths, and be known to us again in our daily lives.