Crossing Boulevard

with Rev. Rachel


Barbara Brown Taylor’s words:

By ascending bodily into heaven, he showed us that flesh and blood are good, not bad; that they are good enough for Jesus, good enough for heaven, good enough for God. By putting them on and keeping them on, Jesus has not only brought God to us; he has also brought us to God.

I tried all of that out on a friend last week. "Isn't that incredible?" I said. "Doesn't that make the Ascension come alive for you?"

"Interesting," he said, "but not compelling."

It’s the story of my life, come this thing we call Ascension Sunday: Interesting but not compelling.

I am tempted to blame it on you. You are not interested. You hear the whole thing about Jesus taking flight from Mount Olivet as antiquated and largely irrelevant. You won’t go along for the ride if what I bring into the pulpit revolves around a cloud taking the crucified-now-risen one out of sight (v.9).

A preacher blaming her audience is in trouble and not just because of a failure to bear any responsibility. She has no skin in that which she has been tapped to proclaim. She has failed to receive the material for herself.

And so I have gone back to these eight verses and held my feet to the fire, to the extent that any of us can do that. Do I need this story? Do I need Jesus to ascend?

I don’t know that my faith depends on this image of Jesus drifting out of sight. I’ll tell you what I do need, though. I need a God who escapes my efforts to equate the kingdom with my ideas about what would make everything okay.

In Acts 1, the disciples wanted to know if the time had come when Jesus would expel the occupiers. Just because good riddance to Rome is not the content of our hope does not mean that we have it spot on when it comes to the work Jesus came to do and the work that is to be continued through us by virtue of the Ascension.

Show us the kingdom and show us how to advance it. If there is something compelling here, it may the wisdom of praying that prayer, such that the heart of the matter, the world order revealed by Jesus’ presence and teachings, doesn’t also take to the clouds.