Sunday, June 1, 2014

1 June 2014 ~ The Rev. Peter M. Carey ~ Sermon ~ The Ascension

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
1 June 2014
St. Paul’s Memorial Church

I was recently looking out on our yard and I was basking in the yearly miracle that brings leaves out of what seem to be dead branches.  A silent and brown woods behind our house is buzzing with birds, bugs, bees, and, even bears.  I paused and decided I would put on one of my favorite Pandora Stations – Giacomo Puccini station – and I listen intently to the Italian operas which I cannot understand but which fill me with joy.  I look back at these spindly little trees in our front yard and realize just how amazing the leaves are that somehow came out of the stalks.  I actually came quite close to snipping off these little “trees” for in the winter and early spring they look like sticks that my kids may have found in the woods and just stuck into the ground.  Not being a master arborist, I thought, perhaps that they were just cruddy little trees, or even large weeds with ambition to be trees. 

They are quite remarkable, and I realize just how nature in our Northern Hemisphere really helps my sense of Easter and all these fifty days of Easter.  Life coming from death, bright green and purple and pink and yellow coming from brown, sweet aroma coming from stinky mud, the singing of birds coming from the stillness of the bleak midwinter. 

“do not leave us comfortless”
Strengthen us
Exalt us
“Glory” – Ramsay’s stuff…

Acts – receive Power, lifted up, cloud

            Constantly devoting themselves to prayer

            The hour has come
            Glorify your son so that your son may glorify you
            God <-> Christ <~> us

What is this ascension….why does Jesus need to go away, why can’t we have never-ending moments of enlightenment

“Before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water
after enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water”

Ascension…like Mary Poppins….

So that we might “live into our calling” – claim our mantle

“Few have taught better on this point recently than Timothy Keller or N.T. Wright, both of whom stress that Christ’s Ascension is key to empowered Christian faith and public work. Both also acknowledge that the Ascension has much to do with the secure advancement of Christ’s kingdom on earth, as well as a radical expansion of his presence throughout the world. It’s globe-altering good news.”

“Keller’s Ascension sermon – worth listening to in its entirety this week (it’s #19 on this iTunes list) – focuses on how we tend to misunderstand what the word “ascend” means. It’s not a change in altitude; Jesus isn’t simply “going up” as if in a hot-air balloon. He is ascending, as a king ascends a throne. In fact, he ascends because he alone is the King of Kings, with dominion over every aspect of reality. His ascension is his enthronement, “bringing a new relationship with us and the whole world,” says Keller. As the enthroned King, “Jesus is directing a cosmic transition plan — one that will bring about a new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17-25). As ascended Lord he is spreading the gospel and building up his church by working in the hearts of people while he guides all the events of history toward a glorious end” (cf. Keller, The Father and the Son, Encounter Series.)”

“Similarly, in a 2008 Gospel Coalition interview, N.T. Wright says that the Ascension is critically important to how we understand the relationship of heaven and earth, and the powerful reality of Christ’s sovereignty over all of creation:
I think the problem that we have had comes from the wrong conception of heaven. Once you start to think of heaven, not as a place miles up in the sky, but as God’s dimension of reality which intersects with ours (but in a strange way that is to us unpredictable and uncontrollable), certainly then you realize that for Jesus to go into the heavenly dimension, is not for him to go up as a spaceman miles up into space somewhere, and not for him to be distant or absent now. It is for him to be present, but in the mode in which heaven is present to us. That is, it’s just through an invisible screen, but present and real.
The key thing to realize, as in the Old Testament, in Daniel, for example, is thatheaven is the control room for what happens on earth. … Heaven is basically where earth is run from. And it’s because we haven’t taken seriously the language of Matthew 28, where Jesus says, “All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth,” that we haven’t thought of it like that. We’ve thought of it like, He’s gone away, leaving us to run things. No. He is in heaven. He is in charge. He is the Lord. That’s true right now. Now, how his lordship works out is then through the work of the church. But he is the Lord and is present with and through his church, as we are doing what we are called to do.”

Here at the “end of easter” – this is where it all begins…we won’t see Chirst in the same way, but we will be imbued with Christ, and we will live in God, and the Spirit will enliven us, and strengthen us.

How do we understand the ascension.  For me, I have not ever really grasped or fully embraced this part of Jesus’ story.  Why is this?  One of the first openings in my understanding of the ascension was taught to me by a fellow priest, Father Matthew Moretz, who is a priest raised in Georgia, who attended General Seminary in New York City, and who has served parishes in the New York area for the last ten years or so.  “Father Matthew” has gained quite a following by being one of the first (and best) priests who has utilized YouTube to preach, teach, and entertain.  In one my favorite of Father Matthew’s videos he teaches about the Ascension by comparing it to the film, “Mary Poppins.” 

Enters their lives
Hangs out with Bert, other strange characters
Banking system broken
Transforms family
Transforms “Mr Banks”
Flying Kites
Needs to leave for them to fully embrace their transformation – “who they were meant to be”
An excellent take on the ascension

However, most recently, I have gained an even more deep understanding of the ascension.  Not merely “going up” like Mary Poppins with her umbrella.  But, “ascending the throne” – more like “Christ the King” Sunday than a mere magical trip to the clouds.

N.T. Wright
Michalel Battle
Desmond Tutu

John 17:1-11
Jesus looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
"I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. "

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