At the Vestry meeting on Tuesday evening, we made tentative plans to resume worship services. Our plans are contingent on the requirement that new covid 19 cases continue to decline. Obviously, from the reports of the last two days, that is not the case for us. So, we will wait. It is so important that we put safety first in the midst of this pandemic, something none of us have ever seen before. That is the way we best love and care for each other. This weekend please remember in your prayers all of those who have served in our armed forces to protect our country, particularly those who have given their lives. Remember, too, the sick, the grieving, those who continue to serve on the front lines, all who are lonely and afraid. Continue to reach out to each other. Be grateful for the beauty of Spring and for all our many blessings. Counting our blessing cures a multitude of ills.
I Peter 4:12-1, 5:6-11
Today is the Sunday after the Feast of the Ascension which was Thursday (see the lesson form acts this morning). We know the story. Jesus took his closest friends to a mountaintop and there they watched him ascend into Heaven on a cloud. Knowing what we know of cosmology and the structure of the universe, to modern ears the story of Jesus’ Ascension seems but a fantastic tale. Clouds can’t carry people. To where would the cloud have carried Him? But, to the disciples and those others present, to their cosmology, it all made great sense. It was a marvelous affirmation of who Jesus was, the Son of God. Jesus went back to where he belonged, to Heaven, to the very heart of God Himself.
For some, this story of the Ascension is a great barrier to their belief. For me, the story is very comforting. God used even their ignorance and lack for knowledge to draw them to Himself. That being true, it means that God can and will use even my ignorance to draw me to Him from where I am able to really see.
The reality and experience of the Ascension was particularly important to the early Church, so much so that it became a part of each creed. The importance for them was that Jesus went back to where He came from. As one meme on Facebook said this week, “He went to work from Home.” Jesus went to His rightful place, to the very heart and life of God, to His rightful place in the Godhead. His presence there changed everything. In the doctrine of the Ascension, we affirm that Jesus, just as He was, fully human and fully divine, entered into the heart of God. That means that all of the ways that Jesus is just like us entered fully and completely into the divine life of God. There are at least three reason that fact is so important.
First, it means that Jesus, God, knows us fully and deeply, like no other. He was “tempted as we are”. The one “to whom all desires are known and from whom no secrets are hid”. There in the very heart of God, as a part of His life is humanity, too, is a depth of understanding and empathy for us that only God can provide. Notice that Jesus took with Him the scars of His crucifixion. His scars were one of the ways the disciples identified Him after the Resurrection. Certainly, if God could raise Him from the dead and give Him a body that went through locked doors, He could also have healed the marks of His deepest pain, but He chose not to. All the pain, all the scars, all the grief and fear of us humans went with Jesus in the Ascension.
The second reason is perhaps best summarized by a line from one of my favorite hymns, “And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod. There we find that self-same aching deep within the heart of God.” How can we dare made that bold affirmation? Because Jesus, in the very heart of God Himself knows that kind of heartache, anguish, and pain. In the awesomeness of His love for us He chose not to discount our suffering or tell us to “buck up”. Rather, He chooses to be with us in the midst of it, always working and promising new and Resurrections life out of it.
Finally, the Ascension means that Jesus is no longer bound by the constraints of time and space. “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the age” is His promise to the disciples and us in the Ascension story in St. Matthew’s Gospel. Now, the promise can be fully possible and realized. He who has loved us to death, who longs to be with us, can actually do so out of the bounds and bonds of this mortal life, operating as He does from the very heart of God.
The Ascension. It is terrible, but comforting, cosmology. God uses even our ignorance to draw us to Him. Jesus, fully human, fully divine, completes the story of salvation “back at home”, in the very heart of God. From there He loves us, protects us, cares for us and leads us to Resurrection life in this world and finally home to be with Him, where He is, in the very heart of God.
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things:
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end
of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son
Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to
strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior
Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty:
Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works;
that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve
thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all
things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and
rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be
our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee,
to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou
art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring
forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I
am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still,
help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it
patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.
Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit
of Jesus. Amen.
O God, whose fatherly care reacheth to the uttermost parts
of the earth: We humbly beseech thee graciously to behold
and bless those whom we love, now absent from us. Defend
them from all dangers of soul and body; and grant that both
they and we, drawing nearer to thee, may be bound together
by thy love in the communion of thy Holy Spirit, and in the
fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
May the Lord Jesus Christ who serves with wounded hands help you to serve each other.
May the Lord Jesus Christ who loves with a wounded heart help you to love each other and your neighbors.
Praise God wherever you may go and may you see the face of God in everyone you meet
And the blessing of God Almighty: Father Son and Holy Spirit be with you this day and always. AMEN