I surrender...

Well, after valiantly opposing (and denying) my chest cold over the past few days, this afternoon I had to surrender. It sucks. It is draining. And there is so much I want to be doing right now - but apparently that is for another time. To every-freakin-thing there is a season, yes? That said, this enforced "chill time" has given me a moment to think about the connection between this Sunday and next:  Ascension Sunday. 

We didn't talk much about Christ's ascension in the church of my youth. We did hear about "Waiting for Godot" and the existential similarities between the Christic story and our own inner journeys and anxieties. Kierkegaard and Tillich were big in the heady environs of my adolescence. It wasn't until I was past seminary and into my first church, however, that my heart felt the overwhelming love and joy of God's grace. I talked about that today through a number of prayer/ songs that gave me an encounter with that love that will not let me go. And without realizing it on a conscious level, this was a great set-up for THIS week's encounter with the Ascension of Jesus. 

My hunch is that I'm going to share something like this:

+ At this moment in history, when religious bodies continue to disqualify
themselves from being taken seriously by the world because we foment so much hatred, fear and violence, I want to consider an alternative. Specifically, I want to explore what the poetry of our tradition teaches us about God's grace that we have ignored - or buried - or intentionally banished to the periphery. I do NOT want to spend time trying to prove how many angels dance on the head of a pin nor do I want to use esoteric language to talk about the awe of God's love that really only can be experienced but never fully explained. And on Ascension Sunday that is quite a challenge...

+ Nevertheless, here's much working hypothesis: the stories in the Bible and words of the ancient creeds are mostly midrash and poems pointing to a host of blessings that are far greater than our imaginations. In today's poem we're told that Jesus is lifted up in a great obscure cloud of light... so that he now bodily sits at the right hand of God. Now I have to confess that on one level I have NO idea what the information in this story is telling me. One one level, it is truly incomprehensible and even after reading theologians far smarter than myself, I still don't know what their point is.

+ On the other hand, when I step back and let the poetry and imagery of this story speak to me, I  begin to see a few blessings that I can really celebrate. First of all I see that the broken and wounded but resurrected body of Jesus is now embraced fully by God -and that's good news for me. Because it tells me that God understands intimately all my wounds and brokenness. God's grace isn't abstract or ethereal, it is related to my living hurts and shame.

+ This story also suggested that what happened to the wounded and crucified
Jesus is part of my experience, too: God raised him up, brought healing and hope to him as well as the gift of new life. And what God has done for Christ, God promises to do for me. That's good news, too. And one thing more: the more I open myself to God's healing and transforming grace - the more I become an ally of Jesus - the deeper God's love works within me. The ancient Easter Orthodox tradition teaches that the more I rest in God's love - waiting in prayer and mediation as Jesus advises - and the more I let my heart trust that God is in charge - casting my anxieties and fears upon the Lord - the more peace I encounter. In those moments, I actually taste a bit of God's kingdom as it breaks into my ordinary experiences. Heaven is NOT some place in the time/space continuum, but deep intimacy with God wherever I am. And these tastes that happen in flashes now, will happen more profoundly then.

That's what I think I'm thinking about right now.  But it is time to take another break and let this damn cold run its course. Happy Memorial Day dear friends: tomorrow we will light some candles to honor our beloved veterans who died in service to God and country. Please, don't forget them.
1) Jane Butler-Biggs: Ascension @ www.janebutlerbiggsfineart.com
2) Salvador Dali: Ascension of Christ @ www.kpbs.org


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