by Fletcher Lowe
Earlier this week the church marked the Feast of Christ’s Ascension. I’m thinking about Ascension Day, as I hold my mobile phone. The phone is a real gift with all it can do to provide so many services for me. But sometimes it gives me a “no connection” or a “searching” message – and I have to wait or relocate to get service.
How does that relate to Ascension? You may remember – Jesus takes the disciples up to a high place and then in a dramatic moment is lost to their sight. He ascended. Now, in the world view of his time, that meant up to heaven as opposed to down to hell. People sometimes joke that Jesus was the first astronaut. But to be fixed on that is to lose the essence of the Ascension. The Ascension proclaims that Jesus who was physically limited for 33 years to a particular time and place, e.g. Palestine, is no longer bound. He is “mobile Jesus,” unrestricted to geography or chronology – present in all time and all places. The “searching” and the “no connection” messages do not apply to this mobile Jesus. Wherever it is, Jesus is already there.
Recently in a church publication, the title of an article read “Bring God into the Workplace.” I thought, “How un-Ascension!” We don’t bring God anywhere – God is already there, ready or not!! Present in your home and mine, in offices and schools, restaurants, athletic fields, bars, war zones, flooded communities – God’s already there.
But we sometimes want to limit Jesus’ mobility – to relegate him to
- A particular place like a church building
- To a particular day, like Sunday
- To a particular service like the Eucharist
- To a particular person like a priest
The Ascension blows that out of the water. Just as Jesus burst through the boulder that covered the tomb on Easter, so he bursts through any attempts on our part to limit his mobility.
And he said as much: “I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth.” Hear that again: “I am with you always,” whether we are aware of his presence or not – and not limited just to us or to Christians – but to all people at all times in all places. One of the great mysteries of the Christian faith – the mobile Jesus, unlimited, unrestricted.
So the message of the Ascension is mobile Jesus – no “searching,” no “no connection,” no “roaming.”
J. Fletcher Lowe, Jr. is the convener of Episcopalians on Baptismal Mission, a group of lay persons, priests, and bishops committed to promoting the ministry of all the baptized in their daily lives. Rector emeritus of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, Fletcher is the author of Baptism: the Event and the Adventure, co-editor of Ministry in Daily Life, and co-author of Radical Sending.