O Christ our God, upon fulfilling Your appointed work
for our sake, You ascended in Glory,
uniting the earthly with the heavenly….
and cried out to those who love You,
“I am with you and no one is against you.”
(ancient hymn for the Feast of the Ascension)
“Out of control!” It’s a phrase I hear applied to a lot of things lately. From the mundane to the apocalyptic. From toddlers in the supermarket to the economy to volcanos.
One of the tensions we were discussing recently in our sermon planning meeting was the way in which words like “God is in charge” can sound pretty empty when we’re experiencing the messes all around us (or in us!)
Krista Tippett of “Speaking of Faith” recently interviewed Desmond Tutu – Anglican bishop, Nobel laureate, and the leader of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-Apartheid South Africa. Although the work has been heart- wrenching and exhausting, Tutu speaks out of deep faith in the reality of God and His Word.
This same long, indeed biblical, view of time animates Desmond Tutu’s lifelong insistence that “God is in charge.” He believes as passionately now as he did decades ago that evil, injustice, and suffering will not have the last word. Though he does, he jokes, often ask God if he would please make it a little more obvious that He is in charge.
One of the seemingly ‘not obvious,’ but none-the-less real ways of God is revealed in Jesus’ Ascension (marking the 40th day after Easter). Jesus, after his life and death and resurrection, has been exalted as the world’s true Lord.
Jesus, in his resurrected body, has ascended to the right hand of the Father where he not only intercedes for us, but where He is also sitting in the ‘Control Room’ so to speak. As N.T. Wright (Surprised By Hope) puts it, “Jesus is …ruling the world and will one day return to make that rule complete,” like a new CEO taking charge of a company that is a mess. And we are his messengers, called to work for our Lord’s “new way of doing things.” It’s part of that tension living between ‘the already’ and the ‘not yet!’
Are we drawing strength from this reality? Strength for suffering as Stephen experienced – while being martyred! (Acts chpt. 7). Strength to implement Jesus’ Kingdom victory over evil and the Evil One. We are not only a “Resurrection People,” we are called to be “Ascension People.”
For more on this vital but often neglected teaching, check out the sermons on the Christ Church website. Also a whole book on the Ascension has recently been written, titled He Ascended Into Heaven: Learn to Live an Ascension-shaped Life. Click here for a preview.
Live in the tension – and reality – of Jesus’ Ascension!