Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ascended into Heaven

Icon of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanks to the patrons of the arts, this Icon can be viewed in San Diego at the Timken Museum of Art. 

Today is the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus.

As the ancient Creed attests, Jesus ascended "to sit at the Right Hand of the Father".

The scriptural accounts for Jesus' ascension are found in several traditions of the Gospels.

Although the "short version"of Mark did not include an ascension of Jesus, the longer version, does.
The remaining three Gospel accounts  offer some form of anticipatory teaching about the future place of Jesus: 
Matthew 26:64 - Jesus tells that He will be seated in the heavens at the right hand of God
Mark 16: 19 "So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God."
Luke 24:31; Acts 1:1-11.
The fullest account of the Ascension of Jesus which includes many preparatory statements, are found in the Gospel of John; John 6:62; John 7:33; John 14:28; John 16:5; John 20:17.

The sky was perfect today to commemorate the special feast day. It perfectly fit the image I carry in my
mind for the story in the Book of Acts.

I love the passage in the Book of Acts.

It makes me think of the Television Series and Movies of Star Trek.."Beam me up Scotty!" Sorry, it's true. 

The disciples are getting their farewell lesson from Jesus, and then, he's gone. They are standing staring up into the heavens and then they hear "Why are you men staring at the Sky?" Well, duh.. I think to myself whenever I read that line. They were baffled, perplexed, overcome with joy and yet petrified probably.
Why indeed! Because now they had to face the world without the master. They were days away from Graduation and Commencement of their new life, without any idea how things would turn out.

I've never spent a great deal of time studying scripture in relation to the Ascension of Jesus. In may ways I feel that it's a feast I've never really fully commemorated, primarily because of many years spent away from the Episcopal Church and my own time commitments. I think I must have opted to preach on the Epistle Lessons almost every year. I find myself feeling like the disciples after the resurrection, before his ascension, in need of a hefty "mind opening to all that was written in the scriptures."

Now I also wonder, why didn't I?

Well, perhaps it boils down to two reasons


I've always simply claimed the statement of faith at face value and recognized the basic "facts" of scripture, as you find in the texts listed above.


I've always been far more Holy Spirit Centered. I understand that mystery as MYSTERY far more comprehensively.

Fundamentally, I've accepted the beautiful mysterious "truth" that is contained in scripture and sleep easy resting in the awareness of Christ being present now and in every age through the Body of Christ. I know that the ascension of Jesus is a counterpoint, perhaps an apologetic device, to match the traditions of Elijah and Enoch. I'm okay with that.

After all, who am I to doubt the power, means or purpose of God Almighty?

The teaching is easy:
After the resurrection of Jesus, he remained on earth for 40 days, and then, ten days before the great feast of weeks which we call Pentecost, Jesus Ascended while in the presence of the disciples.

But this week I thought it would be worth spending a little time researching.

I found this link online about the prediction about Jesus' Ascension to heaven from the Hebrew Scriptures.

Now recently I was in conversation with several Muslims, students attending the Leadership Studies at Claremont Lincoln University. One of the students informed me that the Qu'ran testifies that Jesus ascended without having died, been buried, or resurrected. This was really astonishing news to me.

So I have a question for other Christians:

How would it alter your faith if the teaching of Islam about the Ascension of Jesus was the "True" story?

There is no science that can prove or disprove. Only experience, which John Wesley included as the fourth leg of understanding (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience) for faith. The inner conviction that arises within the heart that is a stirring of the Holy Spirit is "experience" and no other thing can replace or supplant that for myself. 

My answer to this question for myself, is that I refuse to accept that the doctrine I've been taught is in error. I believe that if it were in error, the Holy Spirit would have convicted me of the error in the teaching.  That is sufficient for me. I accept that the Holy Bible contains the necessary and inspired teachings about the life death, resurrect and ascension of Jesus, and all things necessary for Salvation.

Call me simple minded on this issue if you wish. "Jesus is the Way" for me, and there is simply  no option for me to accepting the statement of Faith.

Come again Lord Jesus, Maranatha!

May 9, 2013

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