May 4, 2008


May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call. – Eph. 1: 18

A little girl brought home her report card from school. Her mother looked it over, then said sternly, “I want you to explain why you got an ‘F’ in spelling. The little girl replied, “Words fail me.”

Words fail all of us when it comes to trying to grasp the divine mystery that is God, but especially when we try to talk about the
Ascension. The theological implication is that the human nature which our Lord assumed in the Incarnation has now been elevated to the level of the divine. In short, we are all now expected to be God-like!

Since it is painfully clear that we are anything BUT God-like, what can this mean? Is it just another impossible dream? I doubt that God would have gone to all the trouble He did – beginning with Abraham right down to John the Baptist & beyond – if the hope of eternal life were just a cruel joke played on humanity. We must be missing something, but what?

Perhaps it is the conviction those first apostles had that Jesus really had risen from the dead & that the gift of the Holy Spirit was not just a euphemism for a highly emotional religious experience. Perhaps it is a disciplined prayer life that gets us beyond the words we mouth in Church on Sundays. Perhaps it is the difficulty in overcoming the sin in our lives that makes us indifferent or even hostile to things spiritual. Whatever it is that’s missing, it inhibits us from even trying to respond to the call of God for each of us to be better than we are.

The Ascension tells us that it wasn’t meant to be that way & indeed, it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. We who try to follow Christ are not as those who are without hope. The Ascension assures us that the dream of being at-one with God is impossible ONLY if we lack the imagination & vision to break the bonds of the mundane & the trivial. That is what sin does: it binds us to a short-sighted egoism & materialism that deceives us into believing that the fleeting brevity of accomplishments & of life makes fools of us all.

Those who have succeeded in appropriating the gift of the Holy Spirit are able to see all that for what it is – a big lie. Life in the Spirit may be difficult & messy at times, but it is far preferable to the blind ignorance of sin that produces mediocrity & bland hypocrisy. The Ascension puts us on notice that something more is expected of us than capitulating to the spirit of the age.

Even when words fail us, Christ never does. I can think of no one who says it better than the author of Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light & my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” (vv 1-2). If there is one thing that Scripture is consistent about when speaking about God, it is this: “Be not afraid.” Fear is a clear sign that we still have a lot of work to do in grasping the message of the Ascension. AMEN!