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Which Way Did He Go?

May 21, 2020

“While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. The said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'” Acts 1:10-11

Today, Day 67, is the Ascension of Our Lord. On this 40th Day of Easter, we celebrate Jesus’ return to the right hand of God. In a world where we search for God, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about where God is. To go looking for Jesus. This tendency is baked into Luke’s account in Acts. As Jesus disappears from their sight, the disciples stare off into the skies, looking for him. But then, two men appear. Angels, perhaps? The same two men who greeted the women at the tomb at dawn on Easter? Whoever they are, they speak: “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”

It is a mistake to think of the Ascension as a lesson in geography. Jesus, God-With-Us, is still just that. In his incarnation, Jesus takes on our flesh and our human limitations. In his resurrection, our humanity is brought through death back to life. In ascending to heaven, this crucified and risen One is installed as Lord of heaven and earth, with a reign of love that conquers death. This Jesus who came to live with us ascends into heaven, that we would live with God. In the outpouring of the Spirit, ten days hence, the power of the saving gospel of Jesus floods creation. All of which is to to say: Now that Christ has ascended, where isn’t God?

God’s work in this world is not about geography. It is about gospel. Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s Wittenberg colleague, famously said, “To know Christ is to know his benefits.” This is not a formulation about a faith that is purely individualized, nor is it a reduction of the gospel to its mechanics. Rather, it is the simple assertion that we see Christ when we are encountered by the his gifts. Where is God? God is wherever the forgiveness of sins is experienced, relationships are healed, hope is found. God is there whenever life triumphs over death.

As those called and sent by Christ into the world, we are Christ-bearers. It’s not that we bring God to places God isn’t, because no such place exists. Rather, we unleash the power of God’s presence when we offer the gifts of the gospel to this broken world.

As we continue to live apart from one another, take comfort in the reality that there is nowhere God isn’t. Jesus is installed at the right hand of God; his reign knows no bounds. The Spirit has been poured out, God’s presence working its way into every last nook and cranny of creation. Even into my sin-twisted heart. Because Christ lives now in heaven, just so Christ dwells still on earth.

So, blessed Christi Himmelfahrt!

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Risen Lord, we bless you for your victory over sin and death, gifted to us through your resurrection. Give us faith to trust your reign, eyes to see your presence, and courage to bear your gifts to others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: L’Ascension by James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894 (public domain).

From → COVID-19

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