Updated: Sep 29, 2022
So, we spend Ascension Sunday remembering how Jesus withdrew and how the community continued his ministry.
May 29, 2022
Dr. Todd R. Wright What does one say from the pulpit after such a week? Poet Ada Limón has written a love poem, called “The Raincoat”. Listen: “When the doctor suggested surgery and a brace, my parents scrambled to take me to massage therapy, deep tissue work, osteopathy, and soon my crooked spine unspooled a bit, I could breathe again and move more in a body unclouded by pain. My mom would tell me to sing songs to her the whole forty-five minute drive to and back from physical therapy. She’d say, even my voice sounded unfettered by my spine afterward. So I sang and sang, because I thought she liked it. I never asked her what she gave up to drive me. Today, I was driving myself home from yet another spine appointment, singing along to some song on the radio, and I saw a mom take her raincoat off and give it to her young daughter when a storm took over the afternoon. My god, I thought, my whole life I’ve been under [my mother’s] raincoat thinking it was somehow a marvel that I never got wet.”
Luke’s gospel is a love letter, too. He tells of the days Jesus spends with his disciples.
How he calls them from fishing boats and tax booths, from the highways and byways.
How he teaches and heals; challenges the status quo and forgives, words which are just synonyms and stand-ins for unconditional love. How he gives them glimpses of the Kingdom of God and sends them out to bring it near. How he led them to Jerusalem, and to the cross, and to the end. After days and days in what seemed like permanent sunshine, for three days it got very dark. Dark like a night … robbed of stars, and oil lamps, and any glimmer of hope. Dark like the inside of a tomb … fumbling with the dead weight of a body and tears without end. Dark like … that time waiting for sunrise, for a knock on the door, for the other shoe to drop. And then, suddenly, Jesus appears to them: wounded flesh and bones, proclaiming peace, hungry to eat something with them, again.
It turns out they were hungry too … for light , for hope, for healing. Maybe you are too. They had all been broken in some way. Crushed under the heavy load … of Roman taxes and ever-present violence, of grueling, grinding work that bends your back and squeezes your soul, of depression and fear, of sickness and loneliness. (Some things never change.) Jesus had appeared once. He straightened their spines and gave them a song to sing! He gathered them in and sheltered them and sacrificed for them. And they had never given much thought to what it cost him. But then the storm had come, and their eyes were opened. (Maybe it takes a storm.)
We’ve had a long time to process the resurrection. It has been seven weeks since Easter. We’ve told tales of the early church and how Peter and Saul and Tabitha were transformed. We’ve told tales of John’s vision of how things will be when heaven comes to earth. But the way Luke remembers it in his gospel, it all happened so fast! One moment they were confused and grieving, paralyzed and fearful. And the next, Jesus was instructing them, before he left, to be witnesses. What were they supposed to bear witness to? To God’s salvation plan and their small, but significant, role in it. To suffering being real. Death too. But not the final word when God is writing the script. To forgiveness, grace, and an open invitation to everyone, beginning at the scene of the crime. And finally, to gratitude and joy!
We are heirs to this commission. So, we spend Ascension Sunday remembering how Jesus withdrew and how the community continued his ministry. Not as historians, recording facts and looking for patterns. Nor as engineers, recreating how things worked and tinkering with them. Nor as analysts, figuring out methods or motivations. No, we are the faithful, who build a life with no more and no less that the original disciples. We are God-blessed. We are Spirit filled. We are a worshipping community, buoyed by joy. Oh, there will be storms. There will always be storms. But we live under God’s raincoat … and we hardly noticed. That raincoat is a symbol of God love. Trust me, people getting drenched will notice. That’s why we, the church, offer shelter. That is our witness. Amen
 “Ascension of Jesus” by Eleanor Dixon Stecker
 Adapted slightly from The Carrying