May 28, 2017 – Ascension Sunday

Ascension Sunday   May 28, 2017   Psalm 47, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53, Acts 1:1-14 ******************************************************** Angels ask the apostles “why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky?” (But… ) Don’t you think we’d be looking up? If we’d just seen Jesus floating up, up and away…  and vanishing in a cloud? Seeing someone rising into the heavens and vanishing… Would, I expect… tend to get my attention… And yet… Even in this strange age of comic-book-super-heroes who fly faster than a speeding bullet… Even in a time where we almost yawn at yet-another narrative of space-and-time travel… Still, many of us tend to default to skepticism… when considering biblical accounts of the miraculous. And at the risk of sounding ridiculous – sometimes we miss the message because of the miracle. Sometimes we may be so distracted by the miraculous… that we don’t pause to consider… what the message really is… The technical mechanics of how Jesus gets from metro-Jerusalem to the heavenly kingdom is way beyond my knowledge… (And I’d be very suspicious of anyone who claims to know the inside details.) I believe miracles happen. And not being able to explain it by human logic…is part of what makes it miraculous… I like what Gary Melville of the Methodist Foundation, writes: “…I find it curious that medical doctors are comfortable, even embrace, witnessing medical miracles; the stage 4 cancer that disappears, or the restoration from paralysis. How is it that we wrestle with Jesus rising from the dead? In the West we love our logic and too often poo-poo the mystical.” The ascension is like the resurrection, part two. Certifiably miraculous; not explainable by means of scientific logic. We believe Jesus rose from the dead because of eyewitness accounts from those who saw him alive again. And the details of how resurrection and ascension happen really don’t matter…for those who have faith… It is important to know Jesus has risen from the dead – and has continued rising into heaven. But how it happens is beyond our understanding. Except to know it’s by God’s power… And it’s not necessary to envision heaven as spatially above the earth – that’s probably mostly metaphor – since elsewhere (Luke 17) Jesus tells us “the kingdom of God is among you” – or, depending on translation– “within you.” How Jesus gets to the heavenly realm – and where heaven is actually located –  really isn’t the point. ‘Going up’ is a natural way to think of heaven, since we call the sky “the heavens.” But if we think of “up” only in a geographically-literal way, our faith might not stand up to the superficial analysis of that Russian cosmonaut who famously claimed God can’t be real, because he personally went up into outer space and looked, but didn’t see God anywhere up there… (And of course, the bible tells us no one has ever seen God… Except that those who have seen Jesus know what God the Son looks like in human form.) But the Ascension isn’t really about what God looks like… (and…) St Luke’s main intent here, along with letting us know Jesus has gone into the heavenly realm to rule there, is to capture some of the intense feelings his disciples must have been experiencing… As...

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May 8, 2016

Ascension Sunday    May 8, 2016    Ps 47, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53, Acts 1:1-14 *************************************************** As Jesus goes up, up, and away into the heavens… Hidden at last in the cloud… Angels ask disciples, craning necks to watch as he rises – “Why do you stand looking up into the heavens? This Jesus will return… in the same way you’ve seen him go into heaven… ” Meaning what? Meaning coming again in the clouds, with a pair of angels escorting him back to earth? Maybe. But even if this were to be literally true, I don’t really think this would be the main idea… Or do the angels mean – Jesus will come again as he left, meaning not according to anyone’s schedule but his own and God’s? Or – coming again with no more explanation other than what Jesus already gave, while with us in the flesh? Probably yes, I’d say, on both counts.  But again I’m not sure these partial explanations are the main point the angels have in mind. Trying to understand everything Jesus and his apostles and angels say can be a full-time job. It’s not all 100% transparent. And I sympathize with his first  disciples as they ask Jesus, “Lord, is this now the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” They do understand correctly now – Jesus is King… They just don’t understand yet that he’s King of the universe – not just Israel… And isn’t this still a misunderstanding…we often fall into? Isn’t it just human nature to want to have exclusive rights to our Savior? He’s our God. (Not their God.) He’s God of the red white and blue… He’s God of the blue states. Or God of the red states. God of Red Sox. Not God of the Yankees… “Lord, is this now the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” ‘Lord is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to America – to the Red Sox – to us here in this place?’ Somehow this strange good bye scene we call the Ascension is important enough so that St Luke tells it twice. Once at the end of Luke’s gospel, and again the beginning of Acts.  Notice, by the way, how Luke tells us in the first verse of Acts that this is volume two – as he says ‘in the first book, dear Theophilus (Theophilus meaning “God-lover”), in my first book I wrote about “all that Jesus began to do and teach until he was taken up into heaven…” St Luke says this is the continuing story of Jesus and friends…Continuing all… Jesus began to do and teach… And… Now his followers are beginning to put it together… Beginning to realize Jesus risen from the dead… rising into the heavens… is Son of God – and God and King… Now they’ve begun worshiping Jesus joyfully. And only God of course is to be worshiped… And still disciples are asking Jesus many questions, knowing now that Jesus, with God, is God and King… “Lord, is the time when you’ll restore the kingdom?” Israel of old knew God alone is King over all. Psalm 47 says, “The Lord, the Most High, is awesome – a great king over all the earth…” “Sing praises with a...

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May 17, 2015 – Going up

Ephesians 1:15-23 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Luke 24:44-53 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “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. Acts 1:1-11 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father...

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June 1, 2014 – Ascension Sunday

Acts 1:1-11 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” *** Ascension Sunday   June 1, 2014   (Psalm 47, Eph 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53) Acts 1:1-11           Higher Ground ******************* The last we see of Jesus here on earth, he’s heading up to higher ground. Rising into the heavens, disappearing into the clouds… And as someone trying to follow Jesus… I’m reminded of the old hymn… Lord, lift me up and let me stand, By faith, on Heavens table land – A higher plane than I have found – Lord plant my feet on higher ground… Seeing Jesus heading up to higher ground has me wanting to go with him… Yet, at the same time, I’m hearing the word from the angels today about not looking up into the skies… The word angel means (literally) messenger. Angels often bring major messages from God in Luke’s telling of the Jesus story. Angels in the beginning of Luke’s gospel announce the coming births of John the Baptist and Jesus. Near the end of Luke’s gospel, angels are there at the tomb, asking, “why are you looking for the living among the dead? He’s not here, he has risen.” Now in the beginning of Acts, angels appear again, asking now,“why do you stand here looking up into the sky?” Strongly implying – as at the empty tomb – that we’re not looking in the right direction. Jesus will come again, the same way we saw him leaving, unexpectedly and mysteriously. Don’t be looking up into the heavens, the angels say. Focus instead on what Jesus has been telling us to do. St Luke has just told us in his opening verses...

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