Ascension Politics

Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53 (The Feast of the Ascension)

St. Augustine considered the Feast of the Ascension the crown of all Christian festivals. Today we may give it an obligatory nod as we make our way liturgically from Easter to Pentecost, but we’re often not quite sure what to do with it theologically, pastorally, exegetically. The clunky literalism routinely inspired by the Luke-Acts vision of the ascension—Jesus rocketing upward into outer space—is not a little embarrassing.

Whatever historical event lies behind the Luke-Acts narratives of Jesus’ ascension into heaven—and the fact that the two accounts differ in important ways might be a clue that a surface-literal reading is not what the author had in mind—a couple of things stand out: the centrality of worship and the reimagining of “all rule and authority and power and dominion.”

Tom Wright points out that Luke’s gospel ends, as it began, in the Temple at Jerusalem. “Worship of the living God,” Wright says, “is at the heart of Luke’s vision of the Christian life.” Jesus’ ascension into heaven, then, is not “beam me up, Scotty” science fiction, but rather that which makes possible the church’s existence. Read more

This Year in Jerusalem!

I’m back from the Holy Land; tired and exhausted yet inspired, challenged, and eager to share the stories with you. My experience of pilgrimage to the Holy Land was almost overwhelming. Every day, everywhere we went, there were biblical sites, holy sites, and historical sites, piled upon one another and impossible to see them all.

Galilee was beautiful. We were there during the rainy season and everything was green (green by Galilean standards). Standing on the top of the Cliffs of Arbela overlooking the western edge of the Sea of Galilee (which is no more than a modest-sized lake) one can see the very route from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee that Jesus walked. Furthermore, clustered along the lake’s coastline, all within view because they are no more than a few miles from one another are the remains of the villages of Magdala (the home place of Mary Magdalene) and Capernaum. Beyond that, up where the Jordan River runs into the Sea of Galilee, is Bethsaida. All of these villages are easily within walking distances of one another and most all of Jesus’ Galilean ministry happened within these few miles. Read more