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Sermon for Ascension Day
A sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Gale Davis on May 29, 2014

Ascension Day 2014

Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53; Psalm 47

Today is one of the MAJOR Feast Days of the Church! Like Christmas and Easter it is one that we gather together for and one that makes us a community because we mark it.  I guess that is why there is such a crowd here today!

Sadly, there are no special traditions about Ascension Day, like mangers and sheep and kings -- no bunnies or eggs, not even a special flower to call its own like lilies or poinsettias! Maybe we should create one?  Well, so much for church decrees.

But it does leave one wondering why it is such a special day -- and of course, in the vernacular -- the reason is because they needed to get rid of the body!  I am an avid mystery reader, and every good criminal and every good cop know -- you have to get rid of the body.  Hide the evidence, so to speak.  If you are to move forward, if you are to prove it all true, then hiding the body is necessary.  Otherwise it gets in the way of the story line!.

It's not much of a murder mystery, but it is true that Jesus’ body was no different.  If we -- you and I and everyone since the first century -- were to come to know him, have a living relationship with him, Jesus needed to “get out of dodge” so to speak, he had to vacate time, rid himself of space and calendars, become a citizen of God’s kingdom instead of first century Palestine. And so how better to do that than spectacularly by rising into the clouds in front of his friends and disciples?

When I was in seminary one of my favorite objects of art gathered for my tacky religious art collection was a postcard that had a serene Jesus standing with his hands held out as if to invite all into his arms.  But it was one of those holographic post cards, you know the kind that if you move it a bit, the scene changes?  And by moving it thusly, Jesus would rise and his feet would be at the top of the postcard. 

The story of the Ascension is a fantastical tale if we accept it at face value, accept it literally, is it not? When I told a non-church going friend I was going to preach about it today he looked at me with incredulity. ”Really?" he said. “Really? Gale you are smarter than that!”

And here I am, really, and saying to you what I said to him, “It isn’t so unbelievable that the people in biblical times were so scientifically naive they believed such metaphorical and mysterious truths about God, what is unbelievable is that people today take such metaphors literally!”

I want to affirm that I believe the story of the Ascension to be true -- despite the post card -- but the evidence that I have of that is mysterious, metaphorical, quietly holy and brimming with God’s presence.  That proof is the relationship I have with Jesus...and that relationship is not with a first-century Jew who told stories and taught moral and political and theological truth to anyone who would listen...well, it is not just that anyway. It is, rather, a something far more intangible and life giving, and for me far more compelling.

For Jesus to be here in this room, present in each of our hearts and lives and the source of our very beings, then Jesus with the human body had to go. He cannot be trapped in the first century any more than he can be trapped in our time and generation. Jesus is alive because each of us is alive and because each of us in this time and this age and in every time and every age, is responsible for our own relationship with the living God, to make of it what we each will.  Jesus is alive and can meet us where we are because he is not trapped in a human body, mired in human boundaries, confined by time or space.

It does not really matter how that happened, does it? Feet dangling from clouds is not nearly as poetic as the icon posted on our website this morning, but it is understandable -- metaphorically, it tells us all we need to know. God is alive. God is no longer human. God is God, and because God WAS human and confined as we all are in form, and mind and time and space, God can know the deepest recesses of our hearts and tend to us. God can become visible through our hearts and by our hands and in our actions.  God can now speak our language, not just first-century Aramaic, but speak words we understand, paint pictures and sing songs that transform our souls.

Metaphors tell us truth far better than scientific facts. The  truth is Christ has not only Risen, Christ has ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God. Simple truth told to us marvelously by Luke in the lesson from Acts, told to us with poetic metaphor, because knowing Jesus, recognizing Christ, is not work for the right side of our marvelously created brains, but because our hearts and souls need images that cause us to stand in awe of the wonder of God. Such awe that we will do as Jesus has asked us, serve as witnesses to the ends of the earth, forever and ever. Amen.

Last Published: May 29, 2014 6:43 PM