Posts Tagged ‘ascension’

'Open Ye Heavens' photo (c) 2011, Brendan Riley - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Here is a sermon from the archives about Jesus’ ascension:

Out of the Picture?

A Sermon on Acts 1:1-11

In the Presbyterian Church, before you can be ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament, you have to pass written examinations and an oral examination given by a committee of the Presbytery. In my case it was the examinations committee of New Hope Presbytery, and they met in Rocky Mount. In the weeks leading up to that exam, I just knew the committee was going to ask me something obscure, like, “What does the statement ‘he ascended into heaven’ mean?” I couldn’t recall talking about the ascension in any of my classes, and I couldn’t remember any sermons I had heard on it. About all I could say about it was that it was a way to tie up the loose ends of the story of Jesus’ life on earth.

Now I knew that answer wouldn’t cut it with the committee, so I had to study up on it. As it turned out, the committee didn’t ask that question, and I was off the hook.

But it’s a question that demands attention. Every year, forty days after Easter, Ascension Day appears on the Christian calendar. But even more than that, for over a thousand years, the church has stood every Sunday, and repeated these words: “He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.” What does that mean? If it’s in the creed, it’s important. But why?

In a book called The Creed in Christian Teaching, James Smart says that Sunday Schools have been known to use a series of slides to picture the ascension. The first slide shows Jesus hovering in the air just above his disciples’ heads. He looks big. Then each slide shows him higher up and getting smaller and smaller, until Jesus is out of the picture altogether. (In Winn, A Christian Primer, p. 140.)

Now I know that the story can lead people to picture the ascension that way, as if Jesus takes off from the earth like a rocket and disappears above the clouds. But there’s a problem with that picture. The main point of the story is not to move Jesus out of the picture. The point isn’t that Jesus got smaller and smaller until he disappeared. Isn’t the point really that Jesus got bigger and bigger? The point of the story is to help Jesus’ disciples to see with the eyes of faith a much greater, grander picture of the way things are, a great vision of where Jesus is and what Jesus is doing.

Sometimes it certainly feels as though Jesus is out of the picture. Where can Jesus be when every day there are new reports of atrocities? Where can Jesus be when so few people consult him in decision making, whether it’s on a small scale or a large scale? Where can he be when everybody seems to be going their own way, people, families, nations going their own way, and so much of what is happening is not God’s will or way? Where can Jesus be when there’s all this hurt? He seems out of the picture, and even worse, there are those who want him out of the picture. (more…)

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