Rev. Scott's Letter May 21
Delivered By
Rev. Tom Scott
Delivered On
May 21, 2020
Attached Document
may_21.pdf
Description

 

May 21

Sometimes it is helpful for Christians to remember that our faith statements, the creeds, are not just things we think or suppose are probably true—“I believe that Bobby went to the store ‘cause he said so”—but are declarations of convictions, “it is better to know the truth than to live in ignorance” (whether we like a particular outcome or not—an unwanted diagnosis, for example). The first words in the creeds, “I/We believe”, come from the latin word, “credo”, which translates as I trust, I give my heart to, I believe—in the sense of I am persuaded—I live my life as I do because I am convinced this is true. These faith affirmations involve answers to questions.

The question at the core of our faith on this day, the Feast of the Ascension, is, to put it bluntly, What happened to Jesus after the resurrection appearances stopped?

Did Jesus disappear like a cloud disperses its concentrated water vapor? Is he on some cosmic vacation elsewhere or banished to intergalactic exile? Or, in the charming story told by my Pittsburgh colleague Mother Beryl Choi when she taught at Merchant/Taylor school in England, when a class of young students was quizzed on this point a young boy offered, “He went up into orbit!”.

Well, no.

Three things seem most important to me about the “Ascension”:

First, we are told in Acts, chapter 1, verses 1-11, that during the forty days from Easter Day until Ascension, Jesus is busy. He has been working with disciples to make clear that he is really with them, he’s not a ghost or mass hysteria creation; he has been teaching them about the kingdom of God; he has dealt with their questions about what is to happen next, which is not a restoration of the earthly kingdom of Israel, but something else.

Second, upon reflection, we recognize that the Ascension is something Jesus had been talking about before the Passion—he promised he and the Father would send the Holy Spirit—and rather than a being a loss of Jesus’ company it is the opportunity to receive the Holy Spirit to strengthen and equip us for the ministry we are called to in our baptism. If we are to follow Jesus, as he commands, we are not a string of tin cans rattling on his bumper, we are imitators, continuers, even extenders of his power and purpose, as he said we could, would, and should be.

Third, Jesus changes Heaven forever by the Ascension. He became a human being at his birth. That has not changed—he has taken his place at the right hand of the Father as the incarnate one, his human nature remains with him. I take that notion to my comfort, as the old language puts it. What I am—a human being—has already been received and welcomed, honored and recognized in the highest places. Moreover, Jesus also takes his scars, the facts and reality of what being a member of the human family means. Oh, it is true that not all of us are whipped and crucified, but who has not been wounded? Who has not been scorned? Who has not wept in the night praying and pleading for a different tomorrow? Who has not failed, been wrong, done one’s best and it is not enough? So, too, who has not known the joy of being alive in Spring, had the pleasure of success and accomplishment, the riches of love and affection in some fashion? That is human experience, and that “has gone up with a shout, with the sound of the ram’s horn“ as the old text says.

 
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