Ascension Day 7
Flower: Zenith Rising by Cody Wood
Where is Heaven?
♱ Opening Sentence
All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world (Mt. 28:18–20).
♱ Opening Reflection
"Heaven is the extra dimension, the God-dimension, of all our present reality; and the God who lives there is present to us, present with us, sharing our joys and our sorrows, longing as we are longing for the day when his whole creation, heaven and earth together, will perfectly reflect his love, his wisdom, his justice, and his peace.
The ascension of Jesus, then, is his going, not way beyond the stars, but into this space, this dimension.
Notice what this does to our notion of heaven. The Jesus who has gone there is the human Jesus. People sometimes talk as if Jesus started off just being divine, then stopped being divine and became human, then stopped being human and went back to being divine again. That is precisely what the ascension rules out.
The Jesus who has gone, now, into God’s dimension, until the time when the veil is lifted and God’s multidimensional reality is brought together in all its glory, is the human Jesus. He bears human flesh, and the marks of the man-made nails and spear, to this day, as he lives within God’s dimension, not far away but as near to us as breath itself.
This means, contrary to what some might suppose, that a doctrine of heaven focused on the ascension can never be used as a way of oppressing people, or of diminishing the value of their humanness. On the contrary; it affirms the true and lasting value of being human. The risen Jesus was more human, not less, than he was before: his risen humanness is the affirmation of his previous humanness, only now without the frailty and the dying which before then he shared with the rest of us. His resurrection is thus God’s way of saying that there is such a thing as genuine humanness, that human life is not a Sartrean sick joke, promising everything and giving nothing.
But, if this is so, the ascension is the affirmation that God has taken that fully human, deeply and richly human being Jesus, and has embraced him to himself within his own dimension, his own space, making him indeed Lord of the world. God always intended that his human creatures should inherit the world, the created order, to rule over it with wisdom and gentleness, to bring it order and to enhance its beauty. In the ascended human Jesus that vision is in principle realized."
NT Wright (“Heaven and Power,” excerpted from Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship)
♱ Scripture Reading
I Peter 3: 18-22
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
As you read the passage, notice what words or phrase stands out to you.
How do you imagine heaven? NT Wright calls it "God's dimension" which is as close to us as our breath. What does this awareness stir in you?
If Jesus ascended in his fleshy body and, as NT Wright says, has become more human, how does this affirm the worth of your own body?
How do you imagine Jesus is "bringing you to God"?
♱ Contemplate with Art:
Look at the art above. What details stand out to you?
Many paintings of the ascension offer a flat, iconic representation of Jesus or an other-worldly mystical representation of heaven. How does this painting draw out the humanness of Jesus? What does this evoke in you?
Where do you find yourself in this scene? Why?
♱ Respond: Silence
Set a timer for 2 minutes. Sit with your eyes closed and take a moment to acquaint yourself with all the sounds that you hear. As you breathe, simply be reminded that Jesus is as close as your breath. Be still and silent together.
Christ you are not absent.
Christ you have ascended.
Christ you are not Lord-Elect.
Christ you are Lord-Eternal.
Christ you are not waiting to begin your reign.
Christ you are reigning now from the right hand of the Father.
Christ you are not far off.
Christ you are with us always.
Christ you are not separate from us.
You Christ now fill all things everywhere with yourself. Amen.
~adapted from Brian Zahnd