Benediction Online

Sunday, May 16, 2010

One in the Ascended Christ

Acts 16:16-34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
John 17:20-26

We could call this Sunday the festival of the Ascended Christ. We are poised between Ascension Day, which was on Thursday and commemorates the ending of Jesus’ ministry on earth, and Pentecost next Sunday when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church. So our scripture readings focus on the Ascended Christ who is far more than human, even while he is completely human, the Christ who is more powerful than all the forces of this world.

Psalm 97 begins ‘the Lord is King’ or in more literal language, ‘the Lord reigns’. It is a hymn of praise to the power of the God who is exalted in the heavens. This is poetry – the one who is exalted, who is so powerful that he is lifted up into the heavens but who is still connected to humanity, to the beloved saints whose lives are preserved. The reading from Acts gives us a graphic example of the actions of this powerful and all-compassionate God. It tells us about the evening when Silas and Paul were in prison because they had healed a young woman. That evening the power of God proved much greater than the power of man, and they were easily set free through an earthquake. But it wasn’t just a coincidence, Christ’s presence was so palpable in the jailhouse that night that the jailer experienced it too, and became a believer.

The second reading, this time from the end of the Book of Revelation, continued the theme of the Ascended Christ. Here in his visions, John hears the words of the Ascended Christ, ‘See I am coming soon’, ‘Surely I am coming soon’. I imagine if we were able to transport ourselves to the Greek island of Patmos two thousand years ago to interview John after his mystical revelation he would have said, of course, the Christ is coming any day now – he said so.

But it seems that we are still waiting.

We are still waiting for the power of the Ascended Christ to be fully revealed. We are still waiting for the people of the earth to be freed from hunger, slavery, homelessness and degradation. We are still waiting to know the power of the Ascended Christ in our midst. From time to time we are given glimpses. From time to time we hear the whisper “I am coming soon” but still we wait, and wait.

And so we turn to Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples, which becomes ever more important. How are we to wait? What does God have in mind for us?

Jesus prayed, “The glory that you have given me I have given them so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

“That they may become completely one so the world may know that you have sent me.”

I think we tend to take this too literally. We know that when the psalm says ‘the mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord’ it is poetry. But when we come to Jesus words, we sometimes forget that they too are poetry, describing the indescribable. They are attempting to put into words a spiritual, mystical truth.

Some people argue that being one means we should all think alike. But from the very beginning Christians have disagreed amongst themselves. Disagreements are the norm not the exception. If it were easy for the diverse people whom God has made to agree then there would not be conflicts and there would not be wars, and there would be much less complexity and brilliance in human culture. So I don’t think Jesus is talking about agreement. I don’t our think unity comes from all believing the same thing and expressing it the same way. We know that that kind of group think is dangerous.

Our unity comes from our inner connection with Jesus, with God and, as a result, with each other. Jesus said, “The glory that you have given me I have given them so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.” In his prayer Jesus is making a connection between the way in which the Godhead is one and the way in which we become one. We know that the Trinity is a more complex kind of organization that we are used to. Just as a single celled amoeba could not possibly conceive of the multi-celled complexity we take for granted, so we cannot truly grasp the multi-personed oneness which is the Trinity. But it is this kind of oneness which we are invited to share.

Clearly we are not going to get there through our minds. We are only going to get there by becoming one with the Ascended Christ. That’s mind boggling. We are only gong to get there by becoming one with the Ascended Christ. Perhaps that’s what the Alpha and Omega meant in the vision when John heard him sat “Surely I am coming soon” – the Ascended Christ coming soon to a church near you.

Coming soon to a heart near you, because this is an inner, a mystical oneness. The way we live externally in our everyday lives shows the extent to which we truly understand this oneness. It is easy for a church to experience unity by criticizing or fighting something outside itself. It’s easy for us to feel that We are not like Them. We are more open-minded, we are more forward thinking, we are more American, we are better Episcopalians. But that’s the human way to unity, not God’s way. God’s way never creates unity by defining an enemy, never creates an in-group and an out-group.

Jesus prayed, “As you Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” There are different ways that we enter into union with the Ascended Christ but it is always an inner mystical union. It can happen in prayer, it can happen in silence, it can happen when we least expect it. It is symbolized in the eucharist. As we come together at the table of God, we are invited to eat and drink the Ascended Christ and then take that oneness and live it in our everyday lives. Live as though we are truly one even when we disagree, even when we hurt and offend one another by our thoughtlessness or carelessness.

We are invited to eat and drink the Ascended Christ in the bread and the wine. Even though we say the prayers and bless them, it isn’t magic. It isn’t an instant fix. We have to be ready and willing and open.

You are what you eat. If you eat and drink a piece of dry wafer and a sip of wine it won’t make much difference to you. If you eat and drink the body and blood of the Ascended Christ then you are becoming one with the Godhead. The difference is in you.

Do you believe that God is present in the bread and wine? Or that this is a symbol of something that happened a long time ago?... Are you ready or willing to become one with the Ascended Christ?

Listen again to the invitation from the Alpha and Omega:

"It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."

And let everyone who hears say, "Come."

And let everyone who is thirsty come.

Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

The one who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon."

Let us sit quietly for a moment and meditate on those words.

If you are willing to become one with the ascended Christ, if you are ready to answer the invitation, whisper in your heart “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”


Post a Comment

<< Home