What About Jesus' Going Up to Heaven?
#CollaborationWithGod is the podcast for May 28, 2017. The Ascension of Jesus Christ is important because it says a lot about how God views us. If you think God is about domination, then you have it all wrong, says Mark Kurowski. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Ascension #JesusChrist #Acts1 #ActsoftheApostles #RailroadTracks #Bamboo #Brothers #HeTrustsUs #Collaboration #Genesis2 #FruitfulAndMultiply #GodlyRespect
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 5/28/2017 The 7th Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read Acts 1:6-14.
When I was a kid, there was a railroad track that was four houses down from my childhood home. I can still hear, and feel, the train coming along the tracks as I went to bed around 9:30 pm. [make the train sound and rhythm]. The railroad tracks were a constant draw for us as kids. I think it was our neighbor, whom we swear was running a chop shop for stolen cars in his unusally large cinderblock garage, that planted cold hearty bamboo along those railroad tracks in Northern Indiana. It was a bamboo forest that lay in the twenty to thirty feet between the railroad tracks and the alley.
It was my next oldest brother who led me down the four houses to the bamboo forest. For a little guy of 6 to 7 years old, those 10 to 16 foot bamboo shoots were intimidating. Yet, it was my brother who pulled aside the first section of bamboo to reveal a hidden path that had been cut out by my brothers into the forbidden bamboo forest. The path wound around to a secret chamber within. Of course, I would never allow my children to do this, but back then, I was out playing with my brothers as we sat in the secret bamboo chamber next to the railroad tracks. As the trains rolled by, we sat in what felt like solitude, protected by the hard plant.
Like my brother who took the time to cut the hard bamboo to create a clearing and place of peace, solitude, and joy, Jesus Christ leads the way to a place that did not exist before the Son came upon the Virgin Mother and was born Jesus.
“Heaven is to be defined as the contact of the being “man” with the being “God”; this confluence of God and man took place once and for all in Christ with his stride over [life] through death to new life.” –Pope Benedict XVI, then Josef Ratzinger, wrote this in his book “Introduction to Christianity.” He continues, “we described resurrection and ascencion as the final merging of the being “man” with the being “God,” a process that offers man the possibility of everlasting existence.” (240).
On this day, we hear the passage from the Acts of the Apostles that was celebrated last Thursday, Ascension Day. It is the day upon which Jesus, after his resurrection, ascended bodily into heaven leading the way to heaven and the eternal renewal of heaven and earth after he comes again. Truly, this is Jesus’ glorification, as he says in the Gospel of John for this day. How is ascending into heaven a glorification of Christ? It is because it completes his work. I have spoken about this before when I said, “he was born our birth, walked our walk, talked our talk, lived our life, died our death, and lead us to salvation forever more.”
It was his walking through the sufferings of life that we know so well, without the angry bitter backlash we express about life, that paved the way. He went to the Cross to pay for our sins, with none of his own. Then, he completes the journey: he ascends into heaven, as eye witnessed by the apostles. Those same apostles hand down to us the testimony that Jesus did not die a spiritualized death, but a real one. He rose from the dead and ascended in his body to sit at the right hand of God. He is leading the way to what life will be when we rise again in our bodies to a renewed heaven and earth.
This is what we mean when we say, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead.” As Jesus says in the Gospel for today, he returns to the Father to complete the circle from the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit through the Son to the Father.
The Ascension is so important because this is where we find ourselves this day. The Holy Spirit has come for us already, but at the time of the Ascension there are some things that happen that are informative to us. First, Jesus ascends after the apostles ask a question. They ask, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” The ascension is the answer to that question. The answer is “yes,” and “no.”
It reminds me of the time that a parishioner of mine, Mr. Tim O’Briant responded to his daughter when she asked, “Are we going to mow the lawn?” In his wonderful North Carolina way, Tim said, “The lawn IS going to get mowed, but WE are not going to mow it: you are.” So, “yes” the kingdom is going to be restored. But, “no” Jesus is not going to bodily do it. We, who have been baptized into him, we are going to do it. The apostles are going to renew the face of the earth in cooperation with Christ and with the life giving presence of the Holy Spirit. In turn, we will respond to those apostles, our bishops and priests, and we will renew the face of our homes, our neighborhoods, our cities and towns, and our world.
Look at what the apostles did after the Ascension in contrast to what they did at the Crucifixion. In the events leading up to and after the Crucifixion, the apostles and disciples of Jesus hid in fear. They cowered. They abandoned him. Now, after the Lord in essence tells them they are going to receive the Holy Spirit, they go and await the gift. They do not cower in fear, they prepare. They elect Matthias to take Judas’ place, restoring the 12. They are the 12 tribes of Israel restored.
They receive the Holy Spirit and continue the ministry of Jesus Christ, the renewal of the face of the earth to bring to all who hear the name of Jesus, turn and are one with him; one with one another. In the end, this is what it means when we “invite people to church”. We are inviting them to be one with Jesus Christ forever and ever. This is a special gift and a huge sign of respect on the part of the Father in Heaven.
When we ask someone to do something for us and they fail to complete the task, it is hard for us to offer them another job. We need to get things done and cannot take the chance that they are going to fail us. Yet, Jesus turns to his humanity and gives them the task for introducing people to heaven. The apostles asked and he answered by giving them the job. This is a sign of how much the Lord our God respects us. The Ascension is a real complement to us. Yet, we ought not be surprised.
The Lord, after creating the heavens and the earth, brought all the animals and plants before humanity and invited us to name them. Then, when he wanted to populate the earth with souls that would be invited into heaven, he turned to us. He invited us to hold dear the process for creating living, breathing beings who would worship him. When he created the earth in all its splendor, he gave us the keys to his creation with the sure and confident hope that we would treat the earth as he would. When the world was beset with the sin of Cain, he called us to be the keepers of one another. Then, when it came for a renewal of the earth and the invitation to others to join us in worshiping him and ascend into heaven on the last day, he didn’t force anyone, but gave us the mission to complete.
Usually, when we talk about these areas where God has given us responsibility, we talk of the burden and obligation the Father in heaven has placed on us. Yet, don’t we see that the Lord has given us respect and trust? He says, I know you will come through for me. I am going to send the Holy Spirit upon you in a few days. I am going to be with you through the Spirit and we will renew the face of the earth. We will bring heaven to all peoples.
That is the task before us in this time between the Ascension and Pentecost: to get ourselves in order to receive the commissioning of God. So, when we turn to the Lord and say, “Are you going to renew us?” He says, “Yes. I will send the Holy Spirit and you will renew the face of the earth with me. Let’s go.” Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 201
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian