Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Thinking about the Ascension

Thursday May 9 2013 is the Feast of the Ascension

It isn't easy to understand how hard it is for a preacher to sit and listen to someone else preach.
Though it is good for us to do so
because then we may be more sympathetic
to those who have to listen to us.

Some times it's a delight
other times it is painful

 I struggle to be temperate
and humble in the face of the preaching of others...

Again, it is a good reminder:
in the face of the mysteries of God
like the Ascension
you have to be be temperate and humble.
I am so often not good at either of these of things

To be temperate 
and realise that sometimes things need time to sink in
or you need to try and understand the place of such thinking
in the scheme of the preacher's life , experience and history
This is not always immediately obvious
a preacher is neither preaching out of a vacuum
nor into a vacuum

It is partly the nature of the Ascension.
We just don't seem to get it.
And preaching doesn't always help.
So in the face of a story which talks about holy Jesus
being taken up on a cloud into heaven
maybe in trying to explain or interpret

we begin to make stuff up!
In wanting to believe everything the Scripture might be saying
we twist and we turn
in order to fit the text into our distorted view of God's reality.

Bishop Tom Wright makes the point that the one thing the Ascension story is not saying
is that Jesus is trail-blazing
and inviting us to find our own lift into heaven.
He notes that if we read the Acts of the Apostles
we struggle to find a view of the Christian life
which says:
If you keep on plugging at it then you will finally get your heavenly reward

he says, rather, that the early Church discovered
that Jesus was showing the world that
the kingdom of heaven was in our midst
it is not something that is to be discovered
it is 
here and now.

The New Testament community rather than being devastated
by the death of Jesus
discovered that far from Jesus being taken away from them
his life, his love, his community
was found in a deeper and profounder way.

Wright's message?
Let's not replace the vibrancy of the Spirit-filled New Testament Church
with the wishful thinking that if we hang on for long-enough
then everything will be fulfilled.
It IS here and now.

see Tom Wright's homily here: 
on Resurrection and Ascension here by Bishop Tom Wright of Durham in which he speaks powerfully of the importance of the Ascension for the modern Christian)

Archbishop Rowan Williams, formerly Archbishop of Canterbury, says:
… the idea of ‘the Christian religion’ is a late and weak formulation: what first exists is the Assembly, to give the literal meaning of the Greek word for ‘Church’, as a fresh configuring of the whole of experienced reality – a new set of human relations, a new horizon for what human beings are capable of, a new understanding of the material world and its capacities. The Christian involved in the celebration of the Eucharist is not affirming a set of propositions with the help of an audio-visual programme, but inhabiting, in speech and action, a drama which purports to ‘re-locate’ him or her in the space occupied by Jesus Christ in his eternal relationship with the Father, a relocation which is enabled by his sacrificial death and his rising from the grave and ascension into heaven.

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