theunfamiliarname

Homily for Ascensiontide_11

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2011 at 2:53 am

“Parting”, Shakespeare’s Juliet famously says,
“is such sweet sorrow”.

And it’s that oxymoron around leaving
that we share with the disciples this morning.

Jesus, conqueror of death and darkness,
takes his friends outside Jerusalem’s walls
forty days after that first bright Easter morning,
having repeatedly appeared to them
and spoken about his Kingdom,
– and there, instead of establishing a theocratic state,
as some of his disciples still seem to have expected,
he blesses them and leaves,
promising the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ Ascension is about his returning
to the God from whom he came,
about his physical being no longer being on earth,
in Palestine,
in time
and with all the limitations of human existence
– ethnicity, gender, language…
In fact, all those accounts
about disciples not recognising the Risen Christ
point us clearly to the realisation
that Christ is now not limited,
not contained, not entombed
by any one culture or ethnicity or family.
Nor in the Ascension
to any one time or region or language.

Jesus is taken into heaven,
whatever we understand that story to be telling us,

Jesus expands, the fullness of him who fills all in all,
to be present in and to the Church
beyond then and beyond now.

Jesus ascends, that we and those first Christians
might be freed from the limitations of his humanity,
his time and space,
that we might be his witnesses in every age,
in every language, every culture,
that we might be made ready to receive the Holy Spirit
which overcomes all those barriers of our expectation.
That sends us out “like sparks to set the world on fire”.

So, the Ascension is not about leaving, really.
Not about parting, but presence.
Not about absence, but
“the fullness of him who fills all in all”.

Hear again those wonderful words of St Paul,
his prayer for the Church,
for you and I:
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…

[God] 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.

hat does that evocative phrase mean, do you think?
“The fullness of him who fills all in all”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has suggested that,
as in the Ascension
Jesus carries our humanity into God’s very self,
we can understand
Jesus’ humanity taking into it
all the difficult, resistant, unpleasant bits of our humanity,
taking them into the heart of love
where alone they can be healed and transfigured.

Paul talks about the Church as Christ’s Body,
his humanity,
a humanity that is affirmed in the Ascension,
but that is also still being transformed and redeemed
by our proclamation,
by our loving service,
by our giving voice to the voiceless,
by our prayer, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
By our being the Body of Christ.

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