Saturday, 15 May 2010

Going Home

Luke 24:46-53

Jesus said to his disciples,
‘You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.
‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.’

Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.

You are witnesses to this

It seems then, at last, the disciples have learn to listen; have got the message. The time spent with them after the Resurrection has been all worthwhile as the Lord is able to teach them how everything really had come together; how the pieces fitted and that it was all true.

In Luke’s account the disciples seem perfectly happy with this; joyful even, as they accompany the Lord on this last walk together to the outskirts of the town. Their uncertainties have been answered; they have seen, heard, touched and ate with the Resurrected Christ. They, who have known him as man, have accepted him (in some way or another) as God.

And Luke, who is very much the plain speaking Gospel writer, records this unique event with mundane simplicity. ‘he was carried up to heaven’, as though it were any normal happening; as if he had been waved off on the next caravan going east.

Where is the fanfare, the trumpet blast? Where is the wonder of the Transfiguration when the Lord became unnaturally brilliant and transformed or even his Baptism with the visitation of the Father and Holy Spirit.

The disciples have the Word in their heart and they are confident in their faith. The Lord is simply carried into Heaven and off they go in thanksgiving and praise. Is it that the Lord has not only become so much more than human; the disciples have had the time to get used to it?

Perhaps, there is no need to impress anyone now. Perhaps it was necessary that his going was as simple as going home; it was going home and he has told them that they would have a home there too. A big event would unbalance them again into uncertainty and fear; would make Heaven into a place not meant for them. And then it would all have been a waste of time; a waste of a life and a waste of a death.

Christ is the Pathfinder; a journey from Divinity into humanity; through life; through suffering and death; through Hell and into a new life that is Divine. A path that was grown over, gated and guarded and now revealed. Through him, with him and in him the journey home is signposted and the door is open.

The Lord is certainly starting to sound like his Father. ‘Stay in the city until someone else comes.’ Knowing that without each other their faith could still be fragile; that doubts could creep in. Even then, another blessing – just in case: leaving them no easier than being left. How he loves us. ..

You may notice that the Gospel refers to the disciples accompanying the Lord to his Ascension. No names at all are mentioned, this is everyone; everyone who has seen and believed; the apostles, the women; the followers; the families; the Jews and the Gentiles.

There is no hierarchy; no special asides or individual messages; this is something they all have to see.

This is the faith that they all believe and in a week they will all receive the same gift of the Holy Spirit.

This is the first community of believers; the first Church; witnesses to a simple faith – that by Christ’s death and resurrection; repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached starting from Jerusalem (because God keeps His promises) but to all nations; to everybody.

This is the simple faith that saints call us back to time and time again;
Eight hundred years ago, St Francis sought to rebuild a medieval Church that thought more of its buildings and finery by reminding them of the poverty and love of Christ. And all the other saints down the ages who call us back to simplicity - to serve in just two ways – Love God and each other; the Great Commandments.

There is always a lot going on in the Church, in parts it is an organisation like any secular one; with the need to organise, define and exclude. There will always be things that go wrong; there will always be things we don’t agree on; culturally or socially there will be doubts and disagreements. As human beings some of this we have not and may not grow out of.
But as witnesses to the faith Christ gave us, we have responsibilities of our own, we have our own work to do and that work belongs to a simpler community; a community of equality; a community of Love; a community that exists without the need for a building called Church.
wordinthehand 2010

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