Now Is The Time Lent Study

Made you look! - Reflections 5-4-16

 Texts we’ll use this Sunday, May 8
 Seventh Sunday of Easter

 Acts 1:1-11
 Psalm 47
 Revelation 22:12-14,   16-17, 20-21
 Luke 24:44-53

There are 7 Sundays in the Easter season. We have just passed Week 6.  Each Sunday during this season at the beginning of worship, I shout (in my cheerleader voice; yes, cheerleader) Christ is Risen! Alleluia! You could argue that every service all year could start that way, but I’m not going there. As the weeks tick by, I can see the questions arising in the people’s eyes “How long, O Lord, is she planning to shout at us?” Well, only one more Sunday, then the Spirit will rush in on Pentecost (May 15) and we will start the long season of the Church, the “Sundays after Pentecost” (along about fall, you may be wishing there was a cheerleader shouting at the beginning of the service).

Truthfully, it takes more than 50 days…. maybe a lifetime…to take in what happened on Easter and the three days before it. It is still a bit shocking that “Christ is Risen”! And all these days -years - centuries, it is still worth shouting about.

This Thursday marks an important day in the Easter season which always happens 40 days after Easter which always falls, therefore, on a Thursday. We celebrate Ascension Day. We acknowledge that event almost every Sunday in the Apostles’ Creed, in the “Jesus” paragraph: He ascended into heaven. Strange we say it so often but celebrate it so rarely! 

Note that all the imagery we’ve looked at from Revelation these past weeks relate to the next lines in the creed: he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Mural of Christ ascending to heaven on a graffiti wall in Bristol, England.
Since the creed uses the word “ascend” and the both the Acts and Luke accounts use the word “up”, the scene in our mind’s eye has Jesus going up…like on a cloud elevator. In fact, great pieces of art through time have pictured it that way. Or others have focused on the confused disciples and the two men in white. Some of the modern ones look more like “beam me up, Scotty”. My favorite is by Salvador Dali - a 1958 painting of the bottom of Jesus feet. 

These days we enlightened ones know that “up” means stars and comets and galaxies and black holes. Nothing about thrones, yet. So like the study of Revelation and so much of the Bible, we need to look at this scene (described by the same author in both Luke and Acts) and ask “What does this mean?” 

Remember the comment section below  -  it would be great to hear what you think.

Here are my some of my reflections:
1) At his birth, during his life, and at his death, Jesus brought God into the experience and reality of humanness. So it stands to reason that his returning to God takes humanness into the experience and reality of God.  Nothing is the same for humanity and nothing is the same for Divinity.

2) There is that whole time-space continuum that I enjoy holding lightly and don’t try to actually understand. Jesus was present in a specific time and place during his lifetime; the ascension now moves him to a time and place that is all time and every place…. for comfort and for prayer: “Where two or three gather” …. for forgiveness and life: “Given and shed for you” … and for compassion and mercy: “the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face” (All are Welcome by Mary Haugen).

3) In the ascension, which is a visual aid for us that Jesus is not walking about doing his ministry any more, God calls us as partners to do the work. Actually, not only calls us, but after ten more days it will be demonstrated that God also enlightens, sanctifies (makes holy), and keeps us in doing God’s work.  And not only each of us, but that same Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies and keeps the whole church doing that work. St. Paul calls this called, gathered, enlightened, holy group “the body of Christ”.  As the body of Christ, we do the work of Christ. Re-read Luke 4:18-19. Back in January I said that these verses are the measure of Christ’s mission. As the body of Christ, those same verses define our mission.

I share this poem that gathers together Christ’s mission, Ascension, and the Revelation texts we have been reading through the Easter season.

Because Jesus ascended and sits at the right hand of God, a new world has broken into ours –
     a world in which justice does come for the poor,
     freedom comes for the prisoners,
     and healing for the sick.
Because Jesus ascended and sits at the right hand of God, a new community has been formed –
     a community that loves and cares for all members,
     a family that welcomes all who are abandoned and
     a place where all find a place of belonging.
Because Jesus ascended and sits at the right hand of God, a new creation has begun – 
    all that was distorted is being restored,
    all that is corrupted is being renewed,
    all that was broken is being made whole.
Because Jesus ascended and sits at the right hand of God, God’s new world has begun. 

From a post by Christine Sine on the blog Godspace.

* Ascension, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.  [retrieved May 3, 2016]. Original source
 Remember your comments are always welcome.

Random tale: Pastor Roger brought me and Annie coffee the other day but I wasn’t there yet to receive it. He was in his office with his door shut when I arrived. Annie gave me my cup ‘o joe. As I went by his office I shouted (in my cheerleader voice) Thanks for the coffee!   He answered “Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245