Pastor’s Corner May 2017
May has some big holidays in it, doesn’t it? You’ve got Mother’s Day on the 14th (and a big Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and grandmoms and great-grandmoms, out there, as well as all the women who provided mothering love in some way to us in our lives).
You’ve got Memorial Day on the 29th (and a big thank you, and a humble well done good and faithful servant, to all the men and women of our armed forces who gave their lives in service to their country, as well as all the men and women, active and retired, who also served in our military).
Two big days, days where we gather together, share memories and love, food and fellowship. Two days that can bring us closer together, remind us of what love and service, faithfulness and devotion can look like.
And we don’t want to forget other, lesser, days, like Armed Forces Day on the 20th, National Teacher Day on the 2nd, or National Nurses Day on the 6th. Canada has Victoria Day on the 22nd. Our Muslim friends have Ramadan beginning on the evening of the 26th. Seems like the only thing missing is a big Christian festival, you know?
Not so fast…….there is a big Christian festival in May this year. A really big one. Big and important as Christmas and Easter. You know what it is already, don’t you? Yep, that’s right folks, this year The Festival of the Ascension of Our Lord falls on May 25th. And it’s a big festival.
Really, it is. In the calendar of the church, among the festivals celebrating the life of Jesus, the Ascension is genuinely as important as Christmas and Easter. It really is considered the third of the three major festivals of the life of Jesus. But, we, and by we I mean most of American Christianity, don’t make much of a deal over it. Most churches barely acknowledge the day, and a lot of churches ignore it completely. Truth be told, we’ve ignored it some years, as well. No big service is planned for the 25th. No special dinner is being held. No flower sale. No concert of sacred music. We’ll give it some focus the following Sunday, May 28th, but that’s Memorial Day weekend, so how, you know, priorities and all.
It’s the lost festival, the orphan step-child of a festival, the one we kind of admit is there, and if we’re pushed hard, we’ll admit it’s kind of important and we ought to do more for it and all, but well, it’s a Thursday, or it’s a holiday weekend (a different holiday weekend), and, well we’ve got to get ready for Pentecost and Confirmation the following Sunday, and well, it is still kind of sort of Easter, too, a little, in worship.
And the real kicker, we don’t really know what the day really is all about (and oh yeah, there’s no secular stuff attached to it – no Ascension Bunny, or Rudolph the Ascension Reindeer, or anything – Ascension cards, anyone). Jesus, ascended. What does that mean, anyway. He died, got that, he was resurrected, got that. What does it mean that he ascended? Rose up in the sky to, where, exactly?
It is a hard event to understand, and only Luke tells us about it, though he tell us both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, so it was really important to St. Luke. Jesus ascends back to the Father, leaving the disciples to do what? Well, go become the church, actually. Go receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Go make disciples of all nations. Go be Jesus’ witnesses to all the world.
But the whole mission begins with Jesus leaving. But not leaving, as well. I think of the Ascension as Jesus freeing himself from the confines of time and space. He’s no longer just in Israel. He’s free to be everywhere, because in his resurrected, ascended reality, he is not bound or limited in any way, by anything, ever again.
He can be with us in worship, and at home, and in the car, and at work, and at school, and in the park, and at the mall, and anywhere else we might find ourselves. In the hospital-yep. In the doctor’s office-yep. In the funeral home-yep. But also in the delivery room. And the waiting room. And the wedding room. And the play room. And the backyard. And the playground. And the cruise ship. And the wine festival. And the ballgame. And the bowling alley. Everywhere. Anywhere.
Wherever you go, wherever you are – Jesus is there. All at the same time. With all of us at the same time. No exceptions. Ever. For any reason. Because Jesus has been freed from the bounds of space and time. Because Jesus – ascended. Not away, but everywhere. For us. To be with us. All of us. Always. Happy Festival of the Ascension of Our Lord!!!! See you in church!