November 20, 2017

Jesus Ascended — So What?

‘I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.’
I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, ‘You are my son;
today I have begotten you.

• Psalm 2:6-7

Although all the elements of the gospel remain irreducibly vital, Jesus’s reign is the most important stage for us today.

• Matthew W. Bates

…the ascension demands that we think differently about how the whole cosmos is, so to speak, put together and that we also think differently about the church and about salvation.

• N.T. Wright

• • •

This past week (and Sunday in some churches), Christians celebrated Jesus’ ascension. In our congregation, one of the readings was this description from Acts:

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 has set by his own authority.But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’

• Acts 1:6-11

In the Creed each week we affirm: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” I don’t think it was until I started practicing my faith in a liturgical tradition that I ever heard much about the ascension. And even now, it is emphasized only once a year to any great extent. I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t give it pride of place in our thinking or conduct of the Christian faith. However, the ascension is a key component, the climax and culminating event in the biblical narrative of Jesus.

One author who writes compellingly on this subject is Matthew W. Bates, in his book Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King.

Bates makes the point that Jesus’ ascension, by which he was enthroned on high, is the very point of the gospel. The gospel is “The King Jesus Gospel” (McKnight). It is the story of “How God Became King” (Wright). The ascension is the means by which Jesus took the throne where he rules today. This is the culminating act in “the finished work of Christ” and it is the most important aspect of that work for our lives today. As Bates observes, the other works of Christ look back to the past — his incarnation, life and ministry, death, burial, and resurrection. But because of the ascension, a new age has been inaugurated — the age in which we now live — under King Jesus. As Bates puts it:

The kingdom of God, the reign of God on earth as in heaven, has been effected through God’s chosen agent, Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the king— God’s very own Son.

Some of the best material I have read on the ascension is from the pen of N.T. Wright, whom Bates also acknowledges as a key thinker today about the subject. In his book, Surprised by Hope, Wright asserts that our failure to grasp the significance of this event has led to all kinds of bad theology and practice.

First, in many churches where thinking has become captive to Enlightenment rationalism, the idea of a person “ascending to heaven” seems ridiculous. There has been a tendency to collapse the ascension into the resurrection and to spiritualize both. “He ascended into heaven” means something like “Jesus went to heaven when he died and is now present with us all.”

On the other hand, others, equally captive to modernism, insist upon a purely literalistic reading of the text: Jesus rose bodily into the air and “up” into the clouds, showing his friends the bottom of his feet before he disappeared up into “heaven.” I’m not sure that’s exactly what smartphone video would have captured, but whatever the disciples saw (or thought they saw), Jesus somehow disappeared from their sight and was no longer available to sensate experience. One problem with a purely literal interpretation is that it tends to reinforce a certain view of “heaven” — that it is a place which is “up there” in the sky beyond the clouds. I’m persuaded that the text is trying to describe something rather indescribable, and that it leans more toward metaphor than literal reporting.

I find Wright’s alternative envisioning of “heaven” to be persuasive.

Basically, heaven and earth in biblical cosmology are not two different locations within the same continuum of space or matter. They are two different dimensions of God’s good creation. And the point about heaven is twofold. First heaven relates to earth tangentially so that the one who is in heaven can be present simultaneously anywhere and everywhere on earth: the ascension therefore means that Jesus is available, accessible, without people having to travel to a particular spot on earth to find him. Second, heaven is, as it were, the control room for earth; it is the CEO’s office, the place from which instructions are given. “All authority is given to me,” said Jesus at the end of Mathew’s Gospel, “in heaven and on earth.”

Surprised by Hope, 111

In the light of this, Wright makes the case that the ascension is of vital importance for the church today because of what it says about our relationship to the risen and enthroned Christ. What it says is that Jesus is both with his people and absent from and over his people. When people downplay the ascension, Wright says, our tendency is to emphasize the presence of Jesus with the church, which can easily lead to identifying Jesus with the church and embracing a triumphalism that sees the church as the answer to the world’s woes. However, if we take the ascension seriously, we know that Jesus is not only with us but also that he also stands over us and addresses us as Lord and King, along with all people and all creation. By this we are humbled to realize our calling to serve the world in our King’s name as he did and as he instructs, empowered by his presence in the midst of our flaws and weaknesses. “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me,” Jesus said, “Therefore, go…”

Let me close by mentioning that the ascension and enthronement of Jesus is not only an article of faith and rejoicing for me. It also causes my soul deep anguish and trouble for the questions it raises. The big one is this,  and if you’ve been reading Internet Monk, you will recognize it as my greatest theodicy question: If Jesus is on the throne and reigning, why then is the world still in the shape it’s in? Why do we still cry and lament, “How long, O Lord?”

I don’t know how to adequately answer that question and am still troubled by it, but I find some help in two observations.

First, Jesus himself told us that the kingdom and the way it comes is a mystery. It is like a mustard seed, like leaven, like buried treasure. Whatever I might expect “triumph” to look like is probably misguided. Add to this the fact that Jesus destroyed death by dying himself, and I realize that my notions of Christ’s “reign” and how it will play out are not likely to be very accurate.

Second, the fact that the next step after Jesus’ ascension was the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the church to empower us for service shows me that a major part of the kingdom-coming plan is for God’s Spirit-filled people to participate in the ongoing work of Jesus on earth, doing it in the same fashion he did — by laying down our lives for others daily. The Epistle to the Ephesians tells us:

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” [emphasis mine] (Eph 1:20-23).

Perhaps my “theodicy” is more of an “anthropodicy” — why haven’t we, as the King’s ambassadors, done a better job of taking up our cross and following him?

Comments

  1. Ron Avra says:

    I also struggle with the issue of Jesus reigning on his throne and the continued persistence of blatant and aggravated evil in the world. I don’t see any resolution in view. It grindingly wears on my faith.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Yes.

      I can recall even as a very young person the celebration of events like Palm Sunday and the Ascension . . . and then walking out of that Lutheran Church [a re-purposed run-down grange hall] to see the same sad dingy town town with the paint peeling off the grain elevator, little trees growing between the railroad tracks, and the trailer park expanding into the swamps to the north… One does not require much life experience to ask: “is this the Kingdom?”.

      I do believe The Church has neglected the theology of The Kingdom; however, I admit I am sympathetic with that neglect – as I’m not sure what to do with it. It is courageous to proclaim The Kingdom . . . and after that everyone slinks off stage and goes back to whatever they do.

      Insert “Vocational Theology” here – and the “Christian virtue” of a single mother flipping burgers for minimum wage and no health care. [“vocational theology” – the ultimate in middle-class hand-waves].

      • Robert F says:

        “Is this the Kingdom?”

        If it’s not, then the Kingdom is nowhere. It may just be that we lack eyes to see it, the way a sculptor sees the finished art in a block of clay. But then, it seems a bit unfair to expect the average Christian or person, like the single mom flipping burgers for minimum wage and no health care, to have the same degree of creative vision as a an artist. Many, most, are just trying to survive.

        Again I ask: If we, as individuals and church, were to respond to Jesus’ status as ascended Lord and King, what would we do differently? And how would the world be different as a result? It’s very difficult to answer these questions, I think.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > ave the same degree of creative vision as a an artist

          How “creative” is the artist when they have an infected molar – and cannot afford to do anything about it. Vision can evaporate under such ‘minor’ pressures.

          > what would we do differently?

          Well, I try. But it is all boring stuff, nothing heroic; there are lots of little ways a person can improve – or at least harm-less – the world and the community. How much of that is uniquely Christian? Not much at all. And I find far more solidarity among non-Christians than Christians – most Christian dialogue I encounter is about why doing any of those things is a waste-of-time or “misguided” [because what poor people need is motivation to improve themselves, it is all going to burn, blah blah woof woof].

          Upside – Living in this cast improves Life, IMNSHO; it certainly beats fear-trepidation-and-despair; it removes the Evangelical shame in loving “worldly” things: like the wind in the river valley, the grain of wood on power poles, bike rides, being greeted by dogs, blue cheese, climbing into bed tired to be lulled to sleep by the slow sing-song of the night trains. There is beauty, but nothing that can be mistaken as Triumph; and little that is exclusive to The Christian.

          > And how would the world be different as a result?

          En masse, at those rare times that happens,The Church has changed the world, a bit, at least for awhile. But, again, it is rare to see enough cohesion for anything measurable.

          One learns that those “great awakenings” Evangelists talk about – they are hard to find in History; even those were small and notably ineffectual at moving-the-needle on anything.

          > It’s very difficult to answer these questions, I think.

          Agree.

          • Robert F says:

            >How “creative” is the artist when they have an infected molar – and cannot afford to do anything about it. Vision can evaporate under such ‘minor’ pressures.

            Couldn’t agree more.

            For me, two implications of focus on Jesus’ status as ascended Lord and King of all things in the midst of our world, rather than a distant king in a far off realm, would be that I support legislation to protect and heal the environment, and I support extending healthcare to all universally regardless of their ability to pay. But many would say that I have now made the issue a partisan political one, and would accuse me of playing politics with religion. I frankly don’t see how you can respond to Jesus’ Lordship in a nonpolitical way.

            And, as you note, these things are not specifically Christian in character; many people support and advocate for them who are not Christian.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              > I have now made the issue a partisan political one

              If they do they fail to understand what “partisan” means. I support such policies – because I support such policies – and I do not care in the least which, or any, political parties support them. The political party that supports them receives my support by proxy – which is certainly *NOT* a partisan mode. If any political party wants my support they can have it; doing so requires supporting sound and moral policy. And I am entirely comfortable with piece-meal support – because I’m an adult.

              > I frankly don’t see how you can respond to Jesus’ Lordship in a nonpolitical way.

              You are referring to the Asocial/Anti-social Gospel in response to that evil Social Gospel. 🙂

              As a counter-point I also believe that these Big Policy concerns – entirely legitimate as they are – can also be used as a cover for ignoring very local concerns [possibly just as political] which are much more immediately accessible [and awkward/inconvenient to approach]. Everyone needs a Big Picture *and* a Small Picture to avoid being carried away by either. Probably a Medium Picture helps too.

              • Robert F says:

                As long as I don’t need one that’s Picture Perfect!

                • Adam Tauno Williams says:

                  Nah. Perfection isn’t worth a second thought. Hopefully tomorrow my understanding will have grown a wee bit since yesterday – that is plenty of aspiration to keep a life full. Notions of Perfection are misguided overreaches.

    • Christiane says:

      yet we are AWARE of ‘evil’, so there is something in us that directs us to ‘know the difference’ between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ . . . . . that reality serves to witness to us that we are beings who were created to recognize the difference and to feel a ‘twinge’ of conscience when we engage in that which we know to be of ‘evil’

      C.S. Lewis put it this way:
      “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. Just how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.” (Mere Christianity, 45-46)

  2. Robert F says:

    First heaven relates to earth tangentially so that the one who is in heaven can be present simultaneously anywhere and everywhere on earth: the ascension therefore means that Jesus is available, accessible, without people having to travel to a particular spot on earth to find him.

    If Wright is correct in this, then Luther’s belief that Jesus is not just spiritually omnipresent in his divinity, but also physically omnipresent in his humanity, and that in the Holy Communion his spirit and body are not only present but also accessible, makes sense.

  3. Robert F says:

    Excellent post, CM.

  4. Robert F says:

    What does an awareness of Jesus as ascended Lord, and of myself and the church as the King’s ambassadors, require in response? What would look different in our lives, church and world if we were doing “a better job of taking up our cross and following him?” What would be the marks of success in doing so?

    • Is it too simple to see the marks of success identified in the beatitudes and fruit of the spirit
      – poor in spirit, compassion, meekness, hungry for righteousness, merciful…..
      – love, joy, peace, patience….
      We would look like people “marked” by these qualities. The spirit will show us (if we are willing and able to listen) just how these are to look in the specific instance (local politics if you will) and the more general (national and beyond). Doesn’t mean we will, or should, all agree. I think it is possible for the spirit to give different priorities to different people in different circumstances.

      National politics seems to end in a choice where these things compete against each other. simple examples (not meant to start arguments): Compassion – health care; righteousness – abortion; peace / patience / gentle – how we view the other side (my way is right, therefore people on the other side are bad) and more.

      It would look like us being King Jesus people rather than kingdom of Country / Issue (pick yours).

      He said:

      “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
      Blessed are those who mourn,
      for they will be comforted.
      Blessed are the meek,
      for they will inherit the earth.
      Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      for they will be filled.
      Blessed are the merciful,
      for they will be shown mercy.
      Blessed are the pure in heart,
      for they will see God.
      Blessed are the peacemakers,
      for they will be called children of God.
      Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        –> “It would look like us being King Jesus people rather than kingdom of Country…”

        I couldn’t agree more!

        Great comment overall!

      • StuartB says:

        Blessed are the meek who scratch in the dirt
        For they shall inherit what’s left of the earth
        Blessed are the kings who have left their thrones
        They are blessed in this valley of dry bones
        Blessed are you with an empty heart
        For you have nothing from which you cannot part
        Blessed is the ego if it’s all we’ve got this hour
        Blessed is the voice that speaks truth to power
        Blessed is the sex worker’s body sold tonight
        She works with what she’s got to save her children’s life
        Blessed are the deaf who cannot hear her scream
        Blessed are the stupid who can dream
        Blessed are the tin can cardboard slums
        And blessed is the spirit that overcomes

  5. flatrocker says:

    And this from Catholic Bishop Robert Barron…
    “We tend to read the Ascension along essentially Enlightenment lines, rather than Biblical lines—and that causes a good deal of mischief. Enlightenment thinkers introduced a two-tier understanding of heaven and earth. They held that God exists, but he lives in a distant realm called heaven, from which he looks at a human project moving along pretty much on its own steam, on earth.

    On this Enlightenment reading, the Ascension means that Jesus goes up, up, and away, off to a distant and finally irrelevant place. But the Biblical point is this: Jesus has gone to heaven so as to direct operations more fully here on earth. That’s why we pray, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

    Jesus has not gone up, up, and away, but rather, if I can put it this way, more deeply into our world. He has gone to a dimension that not only transcends but impinges upon our universe.”

    CM, I think you’re on to something.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > He has gone to a dimension that not only transcends but impinges upon our universe.”

      I mean this very respectfully; but… and? What does that mean?

    • Robert F says:

      Of course, though it may be a neglected one and obviously worth discussion, this is not a new idea. Luther claimed that when it’s said that Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father, it does not mean that he has gone to a remote place far away to rule from a distance, since God and his heaven are not limited to one location but are omnipresent.

      But what are the implications of it for our actual daily lives?

      • Robert, I stated it generally in the post — it means to view ourselves as servants to the world and to love our neighbors by laying down our lives for them daily. In essence, it means to live unselfishly, generously, fulfilling our vocations with faith, hope, and love. I believe the specific details must be worked out in each person and community.

        • Robert F says:

          I don’t know how we measure our success in this endeavor. I would say that almost certainly the church and Christians should do more in realizing Jesus’ Lordship in our lives and world, but I’m not sure that it would make much of a difference to the way things appear to us or the world. And I don’t see how personally responding to Jesus’ Lordship in my own life doesn’t involve me in projects that look hopelessly politically partisan to those, Christian and non-Christian alike, who disagree with how I apply my understanding of being a servant. I see Christians going off in different directions even if they take this matter seriously, because they will have very different understandings of what it means to be servants to the world and neighbors.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > I believe the specific details must be worked out in each person and community.

          Agree, But, whew, that can be a heavy lift. I would prefer a more canned answer. 🙂

        • Robert F says:

          I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t see how commitment to this kind of servant identity does not lead back into the conflict and strife that the church and the world have always been involved in, with members of the church finding themselves on both or every side of all the political and social divisions.

          Are you advocating a life of Christian pacifism when you talk about laying down our lives for our neighbors, CM? Or in your thinking might a Christian police officer also be laying down her life daily for neighbor? or a soldier? If the latter, then we’re not really in a position to be certain that the church and Christians aren’t actually doing a good job of taking up our crosses and following Jesus, since seeking to take up those crosses might lead us to the very same places where many Christians are right now (even when they are on opposite sides), with all the attendant conflict and division that is part of that.

          • I’m saying, from my perspective, it probably looks more like Henri Nouwen and less like Franklin Graham, more like St Francis and his prayer and less like the triumphalism and power plays the church has pursued over the centuries. It looks like Jesus’ prayer in John 17, which from my perspective, has often gone unanswered.

            Which leads me to yet another aspect of my theodicy: Why would God, after the experience of Israel in the OT, continue to entrust a major part of the fulfilling of his plan to foolish, flawed, and often downright wicked human beings? Presumably, the gift of the Spirit was meant to counteract our tendencies, but what I see in the world around me is not encouraging.

            • flatrocker says:

              > but what I see in the world around me is not encouraging.

              So we change it – one heart at a time, starting with our own.

              Reminds me of the GK Chesterton story from the early 1900’s. The London Times (I think) asked their readership to respond to the question, “What is wrong with the world?” Of the many responses the Times received there is only one that is memorable.

              Chesterton response to this question – “Dear Sirs, I am.”

              We probably should start there.

              • Adam Tauno Williams says:

                > So we change it – one heart at a time, starting with our own

                Which can certainly CHANGE IT; but will that ever Heal it? Or does it just Go On… which is not Triumphalism, it is barely even Progress.

                • flatrocker says:

                  > it is barely even Progress.
                  Not to the one heart.

                  • Robert F says:

                    Are we islands?

                    And is the Lordship of the ascended Christ adequately realized in personal holiness, or nothing more than that in this age?

                    How much personal change should we realize before we turn toward the world outside, and also try to change it?

                  • Robert F says:

                    I have lots of questions, but unlike Socrates, I have few answers to lead anybody to with my questions.

                    Which might not be an altogether bad thing; Socrates is always leading everybody around by the nose with his questions, instead of engaging in a real, open-ended dialogue.

            • “Why would God, after the experience of Israel in the OT, continue to entrust a major part of the fulfilling of his plan to foolish, flawed, and often downright wicked human beings?”

              Who else is available?

            • Christiane says:

              there is much that is ‘unseen’ and it may not seek ‘attention’ or ‘fame’ or ‘control’ or ‘power’ ……. trust that which remains ‘unseen’ and hard at work in the world for good …… it’s there, just quietly involved in the ‘little way’ 🙂

          • grberry says:

            It should lead to a place where we can celebrate both the policeman/woman out on the beat day in and day out, and the social justice person who intergrates into a particular minority community and tries to help them reshape their lives so there is less need for the police. It should not lead to a place where we celebrate either the head of the police union who says the police can do no wrong or the false social justice warrior who says the police can do no right. It should lead to the place where we can silently believe “I think you are wrong of the facts and solution.” but verbally say “I see that you are trying to follow the king and affirm and encourage you to follow your convictions in this way, the church needs this.”

  6. Susan Dumbrell says:

    St Paul says: …1 Corinthians 15 v13,14…….our faith has been in vain.
    If I can’t believe in Christ’s incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension – why do I get up in the mornings?
    Susan

    • Susan Dumbrell says:

      ….oh yes, and what of Pentecost this coming Sunday? Should I slumber through this day too??

  7. Lexiann says:

    I remember hearing a theologian say that those present at the ascension experienced/witnessed something so profound and transformative that these scared, hiding people afterwards went out telling the story, taking small populations in a small region and turning these teachings into a worldwide phenomenon that still exists today.
    I ponder that thought often….

  8. Robert F says:

    Perhaps my “theodicy” is more of an “anthropodicy” — why haven’t we, as the King’s ambassadors, done a better job of taking up our cross and following him?

    CM, what would you expect to be different in the world or the church if we were doing a better job? How would you know?

    • You ask a good question, Robert, and I tried to state one observation that applies to it. The kingdom is a mystery that Jesus said would come in unexpected ways. But I think in its coming it must include less poverty and hunger, more prisoners set free, more swords turned into plowshares, and a more vibrant and healthy creation. We can point to progress, and indeed, a case can be made on a mega-scale that things have never been better. But not enough to keep us from crying, “How long?”

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Yes.

      • The Incarnation came at a time of great darkness in the world. Maybe the darkest. The Jews were scattered and oppressed and the Gentile world was filled with wickedness beyond belief – debauchery, “income inequality” that makes today’s world look fair, public execution as entertainment, child sacrifices….then He came as the light to shine in the darkness.

        Compare that time to today’s world. How does the world in our day stack up? 1,456,000 abortions since 1980, moral relativism, organized religion slowly dying as the world runs from God, evil called good and good called evil. We’re not there yet, but….

        How long? In light of the circumstances of the first Coming, maybe not much longer?

        • Dan, I don’t share your perspective, the narrative of decline. http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/71832

          • Mike, thanks for pointing me to that previous discussion (I’m quite new around here), it gave me much food for thought and cause for reflection. Indeed, one man’s decline is another’s progress and in truth each generation can point to their own harbingers of the end times. Pardon me while I now ponder “the soterian gospel”….*smoke emanating from ears*. I never knew the gospel was so complicated! Or have we complicated it? Or over-simplified it? Aaaaargghhh, so much to ponder. God bless you all.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Decline Narrative:
            Prepwork for Rapture Scare and Fire Insurance Sale.
            The more lurid the better.

  9. Burro [Mule] says:

    I think Fr. Stephen Freeman’s teachings on the one-storey Universe would fit well here. Jesus didn’t “move upstairs” in the Ascension and lock the door behind Him.

    Fr. Stephen continually points out that people who live in a one-storey universe appear ‘superstitious’ to those who dwell in a two-storey universe. This is where all those creepy stories about the bodies of departed saints going missing from their sepulchers during times of national crisis come into play. I am trying to achieve that level of superstition and credulity.

    I gotta admit I’m still a two-storey guy in my belly of bellies, which is the cause of a lot of my pathologies.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      I wish Fr. Stephen could have met Francis Schaeffer during his lifetime, and discussed the latter’s “line of despair”, which, regardless of how you think about the old guy’s astringent Reformed faith, always struck me as a cogent diagnosis of our current Weltschmerz.

      As far as I know, son Franky, who is now, well, Brookline Orthodox, never engaged his father’s thinking at this level. He seems to regret his collaboration with his father.

    • Robert F says:

      So I considered my Mother’s belief in the Italian superstition of the Evil Eye malarkey because she lived in a one-storey universe while I live in two? No, I disbelieved it because it’s a load of malarkey, the kind of thing that keeps people awake at night when they should be getting sleep.

    • Is the two-story universe the cause of your pathologies…How So??

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        I don’t really believe in God except in my best moments. My actual trust is the wheeling-and-dealing, arm-twisting, bullshitting, zero-sum game that would be the universe if it was all just atoms colliding. Since I am a loser at that game, it doesn’t leave me much leeway except for posturing and moral dudgeon, which no one listens to anyway.

        If God exists, He’s up on the upper floor, and there’s no way from here to there. Well, there is one way, and everybody takes it sooner or later, but it kind of renders the question irrelevant. You hear bumps and thumps and it gives you hope that there might be something up there after all, but there’s no way to tell for sure. Some people say that the Bible is a trustworthy conduit of information about conditions on the upper story, but not according to the folks around here. Nope, just another Bronze Age document that we can tailor to our fancies. Sigh, but I guess if you’ve been beat about the head and neck with the Bible, you might want it to be so as well.

        Father Stephen says that there’s just one storey, and that God is always out and about in it, but we’re too distracted, or fearful, or evil to discern it. I gave a link to his podcast in the post above so you can get Fr. Stephen’s explanations first-hand.

        • Thanks Mule

        • Someone up thread talked of infected molar distracting us. The physical is quite capable of distracting us from spiritual. Just as those that cut distract themselves from the spiritual pain that permeates their souls. I digress. Jesus never allowed it to happen either way or be swayed from His mission. Went through the Garden and the extreme pain that would break all men eventually if not for mercy. To me when he said why do you forsake me he was quoting scripture in the Psalm by its first line. You have to read the whole Psalm.

          Never a plan B. No not ever and to suggest such would imply why even bother. The concept resting from His works means it was finished. Does that mean everything has to happen right then and there. Well it did just not to us IMHO. To me God says I am. I take it to mean always. He experiences as I do and it happens forever with him. Hard concepts for my brain. Does this take away from suffering as we see it. Did it take away from Jesus suffering. Not my will but yours Father. I’m leaving this plane soon and I truly believe laying down the physical is the place of being born again n the truest sense. I believe that started the day I was born and began dying each day.

          The molar……… I found a cat on the city streets that had been hit around 5 am. Someone put him in a box and I found him at 3 PM. I asked people standing around whose cat. No one knew. He had massive head injuries and his one eye was bulged. I stroked his back and he moved very little. A cop was standing on the corner near by and I said hey can you call this in. He said I’m bust now but it has been only no one responded. I left and came back in 20 to 30 minutes. Still there and I tried again for response…..very little. The cop came up to me and said what do you want to do? I said what are you going to have to do. He said I’ll take him somewhere and dispatch it. I said no I will take it from here. I prayed so hard and didn’t stop and got him home as I have an empty lot where many animals have found homes from old age. I prayed and I prayed still nothing. My heart hurt bad. Finally I could take it no more and put my 22 to the back of his head and shot. He jumped up and growled at me so loud my spirit shook. 2 more times and he rested. I could not believe after 14 hours with massive head trauma and no food or water he had that much life in him. I thought how stubborn life is here. I promised God I would never quit again.

          Next morning my spirit hurt so inside and I could think of nothing else. Ran out of coffee. Good way to start. Ran to the quick mart for a cup which I never really visit. I walked in and all I could hear was star. it was loud and it wouldn’t go away. I got to the counter and looked at the young lady with just a first name on the tag and blurted out your last name is star isn’t it. She looked scared and said yes how did you know. I said I think God just told me. Still m,y mind on the cat. She looked shocked like a horror show. I said I think he wants me to pray for you and what is it I could. She said He knows so I said I short and sweet prayer still unable to get this cat out of my mind. @ months later I saw her again and she said why did you do that. I said I think God wanted me to. She said I went home and cried all afternoon. I took it they worked it out. That’s all I know except he originally showed me addiction and a hard life which I wasn’t suppose to comment on for it was for my heart to show compassion.

          All this led me to a cat named trapper whose chewed off leg cost me 2 grand because of a trap. He lives with my mom and he is a good cat. The one i wouldn’t give up on. I’m the one Jesus never gives up on but that’s for another time. Mule…..Hell we’re all stubborn….no

          • Sorry to leave this out. The day before when I found the cat I was praying with a young man on direction and he said he heard the word star very loudly and he didn’t know why. I do!

  10. One of the joys of becoming EO was discovering Ascension as an awesome holiday. In EO thought, it is a really key point in the uniting of human nature to God as Jesus took his incarnate human self and the very human nature to eternity. It is one of the bits we list off at every anaphora as the important saving acts, because of our general view of salvation.

    Here’s a LiC verse for Ascension, for instance.

    “Not parted from the Father’s bosom, O sweetest Jesus,
    and having lived among those on earth as man,
    today You have been taken up in glory from the Mount of Olives,
    and exalting in Your compassion our fallen nature,
    You have seated it with the Father.
    Therefore the heavenly ranks of the Bodiless Powers were amazed at
    the wonder,
    and beside themselves with fear;
    and seized with trembling, they magnified Your love for mankind.
    With them, we on earth also give glory
    for Your condescension to us and Your Ascension from us;
    and we supplicate You, saying:
    “At Your Ascension You filled with boundless joy
    the Disciples and the Theotokos who bore You;
    by their prayers make us also worthy of the joy of Your elect
    through Your great mercy!”

    I also think you can’t talk about the physical manifestation of the Ascension without remembering the disciples were Jews who would have been contextualizing within the memory of Elijah’s fiery chariot, and that was the imagery of what leaving without dying looked like to them. Maybe they really did see his feet, it would have been a powerful symbol to them! If that wasn’t how it went down, though, that is definitely something the early church’s telling of the story was referenceing, remembering that the Cherubim are the fiery wheel angels from Ezekiel.

  11. brianthegrandad says:

    Comment threads like today’s (and the OP) are the reason I regularly read imonk. I will also say that thoughtful discourse like today’s is the reason I would love to sit with ATW and Robert F while we shared pints and they talked and I listened. Listened to them discuss…whatever.

  12. Rick Ro. says:

    Ascension. Kingdom. Heaven.

    What these are and how they interact is indeed a mystery, and indeed a bit troubling if viewed in certain ways/angles.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      –> “Ascension. Kingdom. Heaven.”

      Hey, I think I found the new Trinity!

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Because another one of those would REALLY clear things up! 🙂

      • Ron Avra says:

        You are obviously ready for your own television program.

      • >> Hey, I think I found the new Trinity!

        That’s good, because the old one the Niceners hammered out on each others heads has outlived its usefulness for the world I live in. Which, by the way, has two stories at the same time it has one.

  13. Up probably all night peeing every fifteen minutes after a triple hernia repair. The following stands out in a commentary on Revelation I’m reading by Robert W. Wall, who I otherwise have never heard of: “According to the eschatology of the earliest church, Christ’s death and exaltation constitute the penultimate moment of salvation’s history and look ahead to the ultimate moment, the parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ, when the salvation of God’s people and the restoration of God’s creation will be completed in full.” For me, this places the exaltation or ascension of Jesus into a perspective where it is both extremely important but not of the utmost importance. For me, the most important result of the ascension of Jesus so far is the bestowal of God’s Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus, or the Spirit of Jesus or the Mind of Christ if you prefer. Seems to me that the ascension, the Holy Spirit, and the return all three get short shrift by most Christians aside from perfunctory Nicene lip service and the occasional mention in passing with the passing of the seasons.