[A reflection-sermon on Ascension Sunday and Acts 1 from last year. The phrase "a significant pause" is from theologian Karl Barth.]
Later in the story
Saul persecutes . . . even kills . . . seeking to destroy . . . the church . . .
and Jesus pleads with him to know . . .
why do you persecute me?
But now, just now . . .
is the waiting time . . .
the gasping for air in-between time . . .
the time of silent symphonies . . .
and roaring silences . . .
It is the time of His gone-ness . . .
He is gone . . .
And I . . . I
Gaping into space
like a domestic turkey
too stupid to come in out of the rain
In real danger of drowning in my own curiosity
while a world still loves and hates
watches and waits
and all I can manage is a stare
my hopes and dreams laid bare to the
Of Him to whom I gave so much
how did it look on that day . . . ?
You may suppose that he looked like Superman
charging into the cosmos
Right arm extended in a fist
Or index finger pointed up -
a Sistine chapel moment if ever there was
Or, as Dali imagines,
His body falling into it
As if lying on unseen hands
Like the hands that hold us up as children learning to swim
with only the soles of his feet visible to my peering eyes . . .
How fitting it would be his feet . . .
The feet that were kissed . . .
And wept over . . .
And anointed . . .
And pierced with hammering nails . . .
The feet that walked the land . . .
And supported his body through so much . . .
Balancing the body in knelt prayer . . .
Feet flying into the temple . . . slapping the marble with their rage . . .
Those were the feet I saw that day when He was taken up . . .
the vertical plane of up and down to us ‘below’
somehow horizontal to him . . .
An unwitting cross made even from his movement
From ‘this world to the next’?
Was it Dali’s dream that day?
Did he ascend into an atom so big and so small at the same time
that even the painters eye couldn’t quite capture the moment?
Did the openness of heaven look like a sunflower?
I think so . . .
I think it was more like Dali’s dreams
but it’s hard to say
even though I was there
and I am left groping
The mind simply too small to grasp
What it has witnessed
And this too-small-mind is what He wants me to use?
To all that was seen
How can my little brain be up to this?
There aren’t enough atoms in all the world
let alone in my wee thoughts
To give voice
I am silent
Unaware even of angels
And yet . . .
Somehow . . .
I . . . am . . . the . . . mystery?
Paul makes it sound so easy . . .
“When He ascended on high He made captivity itself a captive and He gave gifts to His people”
Paul was always a good one for a nice turn of phrase . . .
“He made captivity itself a captive”
Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Sounds of freedom . . .
Yours and mine . . .
Oh, and it comes with parting gifts too?
Lucky me! Lucky us!
Who am I?
I who was there that day
and am here still?
I am the body of Christ . . .
I am the people gathered in His name
Birthed by Christ . . .
I even have a birthday . . .
Pentecost . . . literally ‘the 50th day’ . . .
The 50th day after Jesus was resurrected . . .
Ten days after Jesus was ‘taken up’ (ascended)
The day the Holy Spirit ‘came down’
I am The Witness . . .
Swear me in and I’ll tell you truly . . .
My life is my oath . . .
And my testimony . . .
I was nothing . . .
Just a hand-full of folk . . .
And they died . . . as all humans do . . .
They died . . . but I didn’t . . .
I was nothing . . . I am nothing . . .
But . . . somehow . . . I was and I am . . .
Something . . .
Something amazing and wonderful . . .
I am the koinonia . . .
The fellowship . . .
The ‘where two or more are gathered’ folk . . .
There is no me without Christ . . .
And there is no Christ on earth without me . . .
The church . . . that’s me . . .
The place where no self-respecting, enlightened thinker of this century
would be caught dead . . .
The people and place who have made it their job to bore children to tears .
Purveyor of superstition . . .
Keeper of dead texts . . .
Defender of a faith long made irrelevant .
Flawed failure . . .
His people . . .
Receivers of gifts . . .
Followers of The Way . . .
Members of a family . . . dysfunctional as it may be . . .
The church . . .
The ecclesia . . . the gathered ones . . .
Dismiss me if you will . . .
But remember . . .
I was there on that day . . .
I saw and heard and felt what cannot be described . . .
And for all my foolish star-gazing . . .
Every now and then
I actually look around me
And with nothing more than my own two hands
Nothing more than God, that is . . .
I have changed a world . . .
And am changing it still . . .
I am still tempted to sky gazing . . .
Searching for the God standing right in front of me . . .
Looking for the Divine in the night sky
and missing that of God in the wrinkled hands clinging to mine
And even angels have a hard time getting me to look around and see . . .
But I am all He has . . .
And I am all He has!