Monday, May 14, 2012

Ascension of the Lord: Thursday, May 17 or Sunday, May 20, 2012

Another two-for-one special!
One of the challenges facing those who try to woo the protestant branch of christianity into receiving the gifts of the liturgical year is that it is nearly impossible to get protestants to worship on a weekday. Bible study? Yes, of course! Prayer meeting? Why not? Boards and Committees? When else? Worship service for the Ascension of the Lord? Don’t be ridiculous! We’ll just hold that in abeyance until Sunday rolls around and do it then.

And so, as was the case back before Lent began, you have two Homily Service blogs to choose from this week: one for Ascension of the Lord, and the other for the Seventh Sunday of Easter. This is the Ascension one. Enjoy!
My mental picture of the ascension is actually a picture of a few seconds after the ascension. It involves the disciples, standing gobsmacked on the Mount of Olives, their jaws literally slack as they gaze into the sky wondering, “Now what on earth was that all about?”

Not so much this

More like this

In the 2009 Lent/Easter issue of Homily Service, Paul G. Bieber does a very nice job of answering that question.
The angel says to the disciples, “Why are you standing there looking up to heaven? The body you are looking for is not there.” Ephesians 1:22-23 points clearly to where it is: for God has “put all things under [Christ’s] 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.
We are his body, in our life together. His body, gathering week by week - and sometimes even on a Thursday - physically gathered together, hearing the scriptures with our bodies, praying with our bodies, with our bodies praising a ruler whose kingdom is even greater than a restored kingdom of Israel, who is far above all the powers and principalities, presidents and governments of this world.
A body gathered to eat at a table open to all, to see and touch, to hear and smell the signs of the kingdom, receiving the body that holds our full humanity - and full divinity - this body taken into our bodies even now. We gather to eat, and we have a glimpse of what it feels to be truly human, made in God’s image.
In your preaching on the Ascension of Christ, will you explore the metaphorical implications of the body imagery as Bieber has done, or will your preaching tend more toward a literal reading of the ascension account?

Paul G. Bieber is the pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church in San Diego, CA.

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