The Ascension – Jesus is ‘not on sabbatical!’

Icon of the Ascension
Icon of the Ascension

The Feast of the Ascension, deserves more attention, as we were reminded in last Sunday’s sermon, Is Jesus Really in Charge? Someone has said, “Ascension isn’t Jesus ‘on sabbatical’ until the Second Coming!” It marks, after Jesus’s conquest of death, his cosmic exaltation.

In the Anglican and other traditions, prayers often end with reference to Jesus “who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever, Amen.” He “lives” because of his resurrection, but “reigns” because of his ascension.

After preaching Sunday, I was reminded that Douglas Farrow wrote a whole book on the theology of the Ascension. Here is a wonderful excerpt from his recent article in First Things.

For what does…the Ascension present to us, if not the fact that God has committed to Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth? What does it propose to us, if not a corresponding revision of all our own categories and a reorientation of all our own commitments? What does it rebuke in us, if not our very secularity (in the deceptive, compartmentalizing sense that word has recently taken on)? We no longer know what the “secular” is, if we do not know that the Ascension and the (Second Coming) bracket and define the present age, making it precisely the allotted time for the proclamation to every creature—from the poorest of the poor to the lordless powers who fancy this age as their age—that in fact there is one Lord over all, Jesus Christ, to whom they are called to give their allegiance and so to be saved.

Finally for the poetic among us – a brilliant poem by Denise Levertov: The Ascension

Stretching Himself as if again,
   through downpress of dust
      upward, soil giving way
to thread of white, that reaches
   for daylight, to open as green
      leaf that it is. . .
Can Ascension
   not have been
      arduous, almost,
as the return
   from Sheol, and
      back through the tomb
into breath?
   Matter reanimate
      now must relinquish
itself, its
   human cells,
      molecules, five
senses, linear
   visions endured
      as Man—
the sole
   all-encompassing gaze
      resumed now,
Eye of Eternity.
   Relinquished, earth’s
      broken Eden.
self-enjoined task
   of Incarnation.
      He again
Fathering Himself.
He again
   Mothering His birth:
      torture and bliss.

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