Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Year A 6th Easter WED 2020 Ascension (Observed)
Year A 6th Easter WEDNESDAY 20 May 2020
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Ascension Day (Observed)
Collect: Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-- that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
It always surprises me that we allude to the Ascension, but that we do not give it much focus. At my home parish (St Andrew’s, Oregon Hill), there is an amazing Ascension Window above the altar. According to legend, Grace Ahrents (who was paying for this church for working class Richmonders) had ordered this window as the prominent highlight for this church.
In it, Jesus is ascending, and the apostles are standing in awe worshiping him. Across his body is a brilliant red sash. They un-crated this window which had come all the way from England, and she took one look at it and sent it back. Now it would take a lot of gall to do that, especially since it is hard to imagine something as custom as a made to order stained glass window. The ultimate combination of art and science. But why would she send it back? Most of us are unaware, but a true red in stained glass at that time came in only one way; it required the inclusion of gold. Not gold paint, gold itself. And Mother Grace knew when she looked at this tribute to her lord and savior at his ascension, she would settle for nothing less than true red. She had paid for true red, and this woman would expect nothing less. Yes, she was a woman. Yes, she was a Yank. But she knew enough, and was secure enough to demand the very best for this church, and for her Lord and Savior. It is glorious to this day.
Too little do we stop and remind ourselves that Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father. So our faith tells us. I will have some more to say on it on Sunday, but ponder this.
I have often seen a bumper sticker or meme on Facebook, “What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?”
And if we remember who we are in Christ, that is the question we must always ask. If we are Christ’s Body here on earth, if we are forgiven, empowered, enabled, and commissioned what can stop us? If Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, what can stop us? When people ask how we might get something done, often I will say, “Well, I know a guy…” and I will work my contacts and networks to help make amazing things happen. Sometimes I think how cool it is to have an “in.” But we have the ultimate “in” with Jesus. I repeat. “What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?”
And with Jesus where he is and with his command to be about his work here and now, what is stopping us? We call ourselves a Resurrection People. And we are. That is what gets us in the Door. But how we really need to think of ourselves is as an Ascension People. That is what gets us OUT THE DOOR!
Ponder that today. May we, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” (William Carey, c. 1790) Amen