Archive for the ‘Ascension’ Tag

Devotion for the Seventh Sunday of Easter (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  Jeremiah Lowered into the Dungeon

Image in the Public Domain

The In-Between Time

MAY 13, 2018

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Psalm 142

Revelation 21:15-21

John 7:32-36

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This is Ascension Sunday.  For this date David Ackerman schedules an interesting set of readings.  The lives of Jeremiah and Jesus are in peril.  Certain officials arrest the prophet.  Other officials seek to arrest Jesus.  One might imagine Jeremiah uttering Psalm 142 while in the muddy pit on the prison grounds.  As Ackerman writes, in Jeremiah 38 we have a story about

a righteous Gentile raising a faithful Jewish prophet from the mud of death to new life.

Beyond the Lectionary (2013), page 60

Opposite the ascension of Jeremiah is the descent of what the Gospel of Matthew usually–not always– called the Kingdom of Heaven (not out of piety but for other theological reasons; see the germane works of Jonathan Pennington) to the earth.

The imagery of the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven comes from a three-tiered cosmology in which the realm of dead is the underworld, God lives above the sky, and we mere mortals reside in the middle.  I know that this cosmology is scientifically inaccurate yet recognize that the ancient world view informs the narrative.   To quote Galileo Galilei, my favorite theologian,

The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.

Thus I interpret the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven as metaphors.  I accept that Jesus, for lack of a better explanation, went home, not necessarily upward.  I suppose that one might file the event under the heading of

You had to be there,

so even the best words prove inadequate to describe the event adequately.  As for Revelation 21, the entire book is replete with imagery, given its genre (apocalyptic writing).  To read the Apocalypse of John literally is to miss to point and to read the text in a manner in which the author did not intend.

Hang in there, the Book of Revelation tells persecuted Christians.  God will win eventually, the last book of the New Testament says, even if the victory follows one’s martyrdom.  The Bible opens with God creating order from chaos then with people ruining paradise.  The sacred anthology concludes with God’s creative destruction of human-made chaos and the restoration of paradise.  We live in the in-between time, with those, who like Jeremiah, long ago, suffer for the sake of righteousness and do not necessarily meet happy ends in this life.  But we must hang in there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/the-in-between-time/

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Devotion for the Feast of the Ascension (Year D)   2 comments

home

Above:  Odd Fellows Widows’ and Orphans’ Home, Corsicana, Texas, 1910

J149681 U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright deposit; Jno. J. Johnson; 1910

Copyright claimant’s address: Ennis, Tex.

Photographer = John J. Johnson

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133853

The Idol of Public Respectability

MAY 10, 2018

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 1:1-7

Psalm 119:145-176

Mark 12:35-37 or Luke 20:41-47

1 John 2:3-29

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The term “fear of God” should be “awe of God,” for the latter translation conveys the concept accurately.  Certain distractions can draw our attention away from God and the awe thereof.  Among these are suffering (not necessarily a distraction, per Psalm 119, yet a distraction for many), worldly appetites (also not necessarily distractions inherently, but distractions for many), and false teaching (always a distraction).  The issue is idolatry.  An idol is an object, teaching, philosophy, or practice that draws attention and awe away from God.  Many idols for many people are not idols for many other people.  If someone treats something as an idol, it is an idol for that person.

One can seem to be holy and free of idols yet be disingenuous.  In the parallel readings from mark (extended) and Luke Jesus condemns those who put on airs of righteousness yet crave public respectability and devour the property of widows, in violation of the Law of Moses.  The spiritual successors of the scribes Jesus condemned are numerous, unfortunately.  Some of them even have their own television programs.

Public respectability is not a virtue in the Gospel of Luke:

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

–Luke 6:26, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That saying’s companion is:

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:23, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is a devotion for the Feast of the Ascension.  The selection of these lections seems odd, I admit, but one can make the connection.  After the Ascension Jesus was no longer physically present with his Apostles.  Afterward, however, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and empowered them to do much to spread the word of Jesus and to glorify God.  Of the original Apostles (including St. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot) only two did not die as martyrs.  St. John the Evangelist suffered much for God and died of natural causes.  Those Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) did not crave and did not receive public respectability.  They did, however, glorify God and change the world for the better.

May we resist the idol of public respectability and, by grace, live so as to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/the-idol-of-public-respectability/

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Devotion for the Forty-First and Forty-Second Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Elisha-Eliseus

Above:  Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

The Passed Torch

FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017, and SATURDAY, MAY 27, 2017

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The Collect:

O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us

and ascended to your right hand.

Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and joy,

that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 2:1-12 (41st Day)

2 Kings 2:13-15 (42nd Day)

Psalm 93 (All Days)

Ephesians 2:1-7 (41st Day)

John 8:21-30 (42nd Day)

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Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The account from 2 Kings 2:1-15 is a story of the passing of the torch from Elijah to Elisha.  The transfer of a double portion of the former’s spirit to the latter, per Deuteronomy 21:17, marked Elisha as having the status of an elder son, therefore Elijah’s legitimate successor.  And, as a careful reader of 2 Kings knows well, stories of Elisha’s mighty deeds abound.  Some of these stories resemble incidents from the Gospels, down to a feeding of a multitude (with little food available) and to restoring dead people to life.

Speaking of Jesus, his Ascension passed the torch to his Apostles, some of whose subsequent stories we read in the Acts of the Apostles.  And each Christian generation has passed the torch to the next one.

The task of serving God in a wide variety of circumstances is a challenge–one which we have grace to help us accomplish.  This grace liberates us from spiritual death and other obstacles to glorifying and enjoying God forever.  By grace we can do more  for God’s glory and the benefit of our fellow human beings than we can imagine.  By grace members of previous generations have challenged (and eventually) ended race-based chattel slavery, for example.  That multi-generational task was daunting, but that adjective describes many worthwhile efforts.  Fortunately, many other tasks from God play out within a shorter timeframe.

What, O reader, is God commanding and empowering you to do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/the-passed-torch/

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Devotion for the Fortieth Day of Easter: The Feast of the Ascension, Years A, B, and C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

12383v

Above:  Ascension.  Olivet With Clouds, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-12383

The Ascension of Jesus as Theological Poetry

THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2018

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The Collects:

Almighty God, your Son was taken into the heavens

and in your presence intercedes for us.

Receive us and our prayers for all the world,

and in the end bring everything into your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

or

Almighty God, your blessed Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things.

Mercifully give us faith to trust that, as he promised,

he abides with us on earth to the end of time,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 47 or 93

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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God reigns over the nations;

God sits upon heaven’s holy throne.

–Psalm 47:8, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

–Psalm 93:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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I file the Transfiguration, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus in the same category:

Too Marvelous and Mysterious for Words to Describe Adequately.

Something like what accounts describe happened, but one had to be there to grasp the full flavor of the event.  The words we have–the best ones possible–impart tantalizing hints of that full reality.  Thus may we not be so literal-minded as to discourage healthy religious imagination.

In the Ascension Jesus returned to God, assumed in our Lord’s culture to live above the sky.  Thus his return was metaphorically an ascension.  I have no idea how the actual mechanics worked, but they are unimportant anyway.  The mystery of clouds, long associated with God since at least the Book of Exodus, is beautiful; I have no desire to quench it.  The number forty–also a metaphor–recalls forty days of the Great Flood in Genesis, forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, about forty years of King David’s reign, forty years in a generation, et cetera.  The number indicates a significant period of time, not necessarily more than thirty-nine and less than forty-one.

The Ascension accounts invite us to think like poets, not writers of historical accounts or technical manuals.  They tell us that Jesus is back in Heaven and that he will return someday.  They set the stage for another event in the

Too Marvelous and Mysterious for Words to Describe Adequately

category:  Pentecost.  They tell us that God is with us spiritually yet not physically, as God once was, and indicate that we have great responsibilities.

May we be good and faithful servants of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-ascension-of-jesus-as-theological-poetry/

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Fortieth Day of Easter: Feast of the Ascension   9 comments

Jesus:  Gone, Yet Still Present

Thursday, May 10, 2018

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Acts 1:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father.

This,

he said,

is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.

So when they had come together, they asked him,

Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?

He replied,

It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said,

Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

Psalm 47 (New Revised Standard Version):

Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with loud songs of joy.

For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome,

a great king over all the earth.

He subdued peoples under us,

and nations under our feet.

He chose our heritage for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

God has gone up with a shout,

the LORD with the shout of a trumpet.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

For God is the king of all the earth;

sing praises with a psalm.

God is king over the nations;

God sits on his holy throne.

The princes of the peoples gather

as the people of the God of Abraham.

For the shields of the earth belong to God;

he is highly exalted.

Ephesians 1:15-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Luke 24:44-53 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to his disciples,

These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them,

Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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I am convinced that words are inadequate to describe some Biblical events, and that the Ascension is among these.  Something happened, but I am not certain it was a literal ascension.  I believe, however, that, when it (whatever it was) was over, Jesus no longer physically present on the Earth.

In fiction and non-fiction narratives the teacher or mentor must exit before the students can come into their own.  Obi-Wan Kenobi had to die before Luke Skywalker could become a Jedi Knight in the original Star Wars trilogy.  And, in real life, Jesus had to leave the Earth before the Apostles could become leaders of the Christian movement and the figures we read about in Acts. Yet the Apostles were not alone; in about a week and a half they would receive the Holy Spirit, to which we have access today.

Jesus is present with us, although not in the historical sense.  Historical Jesus left the stage almost 2000 years ago.  Yet the Christ of faith has been with Christians for nearly two millennia.  And we have a call to be Jesus to each other.  I have had this experience when I have needed it the most.  You might have known divine love in this form, also.  So, Jesus is still with us.  Thanks be to God!

KRT

Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010