5/28/06, Ascension -B
Among the Saints”
he Ascension of Jesus Christ back into Heaven to sit on the right hand of the Father was a sad but expected event in the fraternity of those Apostles and disciples, who saw, spoke with and learned from Him during the forty days between the Resurrection and His Ascension. Their great love for each other would be broken for a while, but they would be re-united again in Glory. These close followers were aware of this, as we are when we must give up loved ones temporarily. Thus, the Ascension of Christ is a model for how we can respond to funerals of our loved ones.
Yet, Christian love and deep bonding is still difficult to give up, even temporarily, because we need the love of our friends and family in order to survive in this world of challenges, temptations and difficult episodes which we know that we cannot successfully navigate apart from our guides and trusted confidants.
It is God’s
will that Christian friends can become as close, and meaningful,
to us as our blood brothers and parents. There are people in this
congregation that I would trust with my life. These friends, mutually
bonded together in Christian Love, we would not want to see Ascending
Jesus reminded them as He was departing that He would soon come again. He told them to wait in Jerusalem for He would return soon, on the day of Pentecost, as the precious Holy Spirit. Jesus promised all of them that their friendship would even be more intimate when He manifested Himself in this new way because He would be able to be with all of them at once, even though they would be separated by geography. As it had been, He could only be in one place at a time, but when the Holy Spirit would come to visit, He would always spend the night with each. He would never leave them again, no matter where they went into the world preaching the Gospel and establishing churches.
This turned out to be true, for when St. Paul paid a pastoral visit to the Christians at Ephesus he found out that the reports that he had heard about their wonderful fraternal love was real. Paul marveled at their great church and their so obvious mutual love. He spoke of Christ being powerful in their midst and present with them in a powerful way.
This kind of wonder and power in the life and ministry of Believers is still today the mark of the authentic Church.
Likewise, whenever local churches and denominations fret and bicker among the fellowship, it is a sure and obvious sign to those outside of the fellowship that they are not experiencing the right kind of church.
As a young preacher’s kid I could feel the difference. If anybody ever criticized my dear old Dad I was ready to take them on. My mother was a perfect preacher’s wife in my eyes and I could not bear any criticism toward her. Folks must have known this for I never heard a mumbling word from the reliable grouches.
As an Anglican Priest and Fellow of Oxford University, the Rev. John Wesley was not supposed to extend his hand to a Roman Catholic. However, upon actually visiting Ireland and getting to know some Priests, he said to them, “If thy heart is right as my heart with Christ, then give me your hand!”
This has been taken by the people called Methodists as an example to follow in seeking mutual friendship with anyone who loves our Lord. Believers tend to come to one accord on most issues whenever they meet as friends.
For example, as I have been drawn into the contemporary hot button topic of the novel and movie named The DiVinci Code, I have broken the ice by pronouncing that we Methodists have found the Holy Grail long ago. I will say provocatively: “And it is not a gold goblet, or even an object that we can search for, it is a thing that is everywhere and available to all people at once all over the earth, it is… The Precious Blood of Christ that somehow makes us feel right with God whenever one by one we are grabbed by its truth and sweet salvation.”
Talk about a continuing friendship with the Lord who ascended back into Heaven, who is now available as God’s Trinitarian Spirit, being our personal friend: my, that’s what Jesus promised the buddies He was leaving on top of the mountain all alone, but shouted back to them as he went up that He would be back in a few weeks! Do you think that there is a chance that this is what He meant?
When a Roman Priest and a Methodist preacher can laugh about things, a mutual joy or burden is shared, then we become friends in Jesus. “How do you Methodists raise so much money from your stingy members? Father Tom asked. “Well, you Catholics need to start preaching tithing.” I said. “Never, our folks would never sit still and listen to it.” Well, look it up in the book.” I responded. And a few years later I rode past a magnificent new Parish Hall big enough to seat a thousand Catholics at a big Church-Wide Dinner.
Perhaps we need to laugh with each other and stop fussing about the things that spoil our mutual love of a people who sneak a glance up into the sky every once in a while.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor