Ascension Day 6
Ascension by Maddox Brown, wikicommons
Power of the In-Between
♱ Opening Reflection
Ascension is a peculiar liminal moment in the Bible. So many things are literally “hanging in mid-air,” including Jesus. When I encounter liminal space, it’s become my custom to pause and ask a few questions.
What is being lost or let go of? What new unknown is preparing to emerge?
Where do I see power? Where do I see pain? Where do I see joy?
What is being disrupted or disoriented? What surprising new direction is discovered?
But the most important questions for me are always:
Who is in the “in-between”? How are they being transformed?
Liminal space–in-between space– is the only space where true and enduring transformation happens. As much as we may desire transformation, the in-between spaces are often fraught with loss of identity, control and security. It can be excruciatingly painful. But this in-between can be a surprising space to discover unexpected belonging, power and freedom. Anthropologists claim one of the most surprising features of liminal space is joy.
When I read this passage about Christ’s ascension, I am struck by the grief (mourning and weeping), the denial (they would not believe it) and the disorientation. It was hard, but it also enabled a deep transformation in the followers of Jesus. He calls them into a new identity, sense of belonging, agency and power. The disruption enabled freedom and abandon to the unknown ahead. They experience incredible power and participation with Christ in his work of saving, healing, reconciling and transformation.
Luke’s account adds my favorite unpredictable dimension of liminal space: Joy. After Christ had ascended, the response was to worship him and return to Jerusalem with great joy.
As you read the passage, consider your own experience of being in-between.
♱ Scripture Reading
Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.
Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.
As you read the passage, notice what words or phrase stands out to you.
♱ Contemplate with Art:
Look at the art above. What details stand out to you? Where do you notice liminal space? What's your gut response to it?
Where do you find yourself in this scene? Why?
Consider the experience of liminal space for Jesus. What would you want to ask him about his experience?
What is your in-between? Are you waiting, grieving, releasing, anticipating anything? What is the primary emotion you feel about this in-between space?
The disciples responded to the disorientation with doubt and stubbornness. What is your default response to loss of security, identity or control?
Notice that Jesus doesn’t dwell on weakness but calls them to courage, purpose and power. What might he be calling you to today? What would it look like for you to work with the Lord and walk in the power of the Ascended Christ?
O Lord, in your mercy help us as we pray, and just as we believe the Savior of the world is seated with you in your majesty, we may also be assured that he dwells with us as he has promised, even to the end of the age; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.