Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ascension Day

Oh, how I wish that Jesus had just disappeared! That "ascending into heaven" image is one of the tough ones for me, knowing as we know now (as little as it is) about the vast expanse of interstellar space, and that heaven is not Up There.

And how many hopes were built upon that image of Jesus, and the promise that he "will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

I have real trouble with "up in the air" Christianity. I'm sorry, but I just think it looks silly.

Strangely, the Luke-Acts account of the event are slightly different. Acts has Jesus "lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight." Definitely an up in the air moment. Luke, however, is a bit more nebulous, to use another cloudy word. Luke reads, "While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven." And lookee at this footnote: "Other ancient authorities lack 'and was carried up into heaven.'"

Even in the up in the air moment, there's a moment of vanishing into a cloud. It's not a straight shot through the atmosphere; there's a part of the Ascension that is hidden from our sight, obscured by a cloud. I can live with that. I can live with obscurity, with nebulousness.

But even more so, I'm grateful for the gospel passage that shows Jesus withdrawing rather than levitating. That's the image I'm going to hold on to on this Ascension Day. There is more than one way in which Jesus vanishes from our sight.

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