26 May 2022 (Thursday)
Anglican Cycle of Prayer
The Diocese of Louisiana – The Episcopal Church (IV (4) Province)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
The Triune God invites us until the Second coming to be witnesses in the world
Ever since, Mike and I began to watch Downtown Abbey again on Netflix I have been thinking about transitions.
Transitions…that process of moving from one stage to another… sometimes in terms of where we are…but many time clarifying over time who we are and then having the courage to reach out in faith to follow God and to allow God to become a more authentic self.
Downtown Abbey, as you may know, is a British historical drama Set between 1912 and 1926 which recounts the large and small, day to day events in the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants. And in this story of the Crawley family and their servants. There were a lot of transitions. The servants crossed thresholds going UP to serve and DOWN to re-coup from the family drama. The Crawley family went IN and OUT and THROUGH
rooms in the large castle to engage in important discussions to build relationships, to cope with life events. Transitions moved them from one room to another, one floor to another, to one stage in life to another, through the major seasons of their lives.
All of us undergo transitions. We grow from children, to youth, to adulthood, to maturity; blossom from being a beginner in the workplace or with a hobby to being more of an expert. Bud from being single to being a couple and perhaps even to being single again. Transitions are not just geographical in terms of moving up or down but through periods of growth and maturation, of reaching out toward the new, and letting go of the old. Transitions encourage us to draw nearer to God and allow God to transform our hearts, o become whom God created us to be.
This last month after the death of my beloved friends, Susanna and Suzie I have been pondering the ultimate transition…. From life to death, asking myself How did I see Christ’s light shine through her? What did she teach me about faith? Where, through her death, is God inviting my heart to be converted to live more deeply in God’s love and to be God’s witness in the world?
And in today’s lesson from Acts I suspect the disciples were asking some of the same questions of the risen Christ. The Book of Acts was, as was the Gospel of Luke, written by Luke to Theophilus, which in Greek means lover of God. It is unclear who Theophilus was specifically but this book is written to all lovers of God; for you and for me.
And We celebrate this day, The Feast Day of the Ascension, an important part of God’s Grand Narrative, in and out, up and down throughout human history. For we remember in God’s great narrative Jesus came down to become incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, to create a new law of love for God, neighbor, and self. And while on earth, Jesus called, taught, and walked among the people, building a large following surrounding a core of 12 disciples, one for each of the tribes of Israel, until Jesus’ time came. And He went through both Jewish and Roman trials, was Blackmailed and then crucified, dying a horrific death on the hard wood of the cross; only to descend further, to go down, in, and through Hell to join with the dead to release them. And triumphantly rise again on the Third day, to go back up to earth, resurrected as the risen Christ; releasing all of us from cosmic death, providing eternal salvation for all who believe and inviting all to join His community of love as his witnesses in the world.
In God’s Grand Narrative, Jesus’ ascension links the resurrection with the ascension, for the risen Christ has just spent 40 days on earth, Eastertide, to teach the disciples more about His and their mission on earth. The Ascension is when Jesus is whisked UP through the clouds just as Elijah was many years before him to sit at the right hand of the father waiting until the last movement in God’s grand narrative when Christ will return, will come down for the second coming. For just prior to his Ascension Jesus orders the disciples to stay in Jerusalem to wait for the Father’s promise. And he has one more teaching, teaching about himself and instructions for them.
Jesus teaches them about three important results of his Ascension. First of all, Jesus has gone to sit at the Father’s right hand, interceding for us. No longer do you have to go to a High Priest or a saint or even a Deacon or Priest, like Rose or me to pray. You can speak directly to Jesus in prayer, offering thanks and praise, sharing your griefs and sorrows, interceding for yourself or others on your heart. For even though God acquits us, removing our sin and guilt Satan, the enemy, as we all know too well, continues to accuse us before God. But at God’s right hand, Jesus intercedes for us, serves as our advocate mediating between God and us, assuring us of God’s forgiveness.
Jesus is a bit like a little boy who was playing outside the White House during the Civil war. The story is that boy found a distraught young Union soldier sitting on the White House steps. “What’s the matter soldier?” the boy asked. “I have been wounded and discharged, but the Army won’t pay me my pension?” he replied. “Well, come with me!” Taking the young soldier by the hand, the little boy marched up the White House steps and into the Oval Office to meet the President, Abraham Lincoln. “Dad,” the boy exclaimed,” this soldier needs your help!” Be reassured, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, interceding for you, sometimes before you even realize what you need!
Secondly, after Ascending up into Heaven Jesus can be everywhere, no longer limited by time or space with the sending of the Holy Spirit. Jesus can be and is present with us always, at any time with you and me and all of us, simultaneously. Jesus is like a puddle of rain water in a low space in your yard (And we can hope that there will be low places in our yards now filled with rain water). As a puddle the water is in one space, but as water is evaporated up into the clouds the droplets are transformed into a water vapor and can be released back down to earth as rain water, ice, hail, or snow. Jesus having ascended into heaven, will be released as the Holy Spirit to nourish the earth of our souls and our communities.
Thirdly, with his ascension to Heaven, God makes Jesus the head of all creation for the church and promises Jesus will come again; descending down from heaven in the clouds to judge and rule over the earth, to oversee a world free of war and suffering, death and sorrow, crying and pain. To initiate a world in which God will wipe every tear from every eyes. Jesus’ ascension means Jesus is interceding for us. Jesus can be everywhere. Jesus is coming back…
And so I wonder, what does Jesus call the disciples and us to do until his coming again? Jesus reminds us that if we wait and listen and discern we will receive power; the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us for the work God and Jesus have for us to do.
For as Christians we have a common mission. For in our world, where people as in Uvalde, Texas are drowning in sorrow need God’s peace, folks in Buffalo, NY drowning amongst hate crimes need God’s love, sisters and brothers in the Ukraine drowning in hunger and warfare need solidarity with God’s believers, Jesus calls us to be His hands and feet witnessing to Christ’s inclusive, radical, ever embracing love, sharing the good news wherever we go not just with our words but with our actions of generosity and kindness and compassion., and with God’s grace inviting others to hear His story, and to see how their story is woven into His story.
This is our Common mission, to be willing to learn and grow and stretch, to accompany Him through transitions through the door ways and stages of our lives to go up and down and in and out and through. To open our hearts to be converted more deeply in love trusting that Christ is with us, Christ intercedes for us, and Christ will return again.
And so, I invite you on this Ascension Day to ponder where is Christ calling me to open my heart, to go up or down, in or out or even through the challenges in my life to embrace Christ’s love more deeply and to be empowered to be God’s witness in the world?