Saturday, 19 May 2012

Now here, still

Gospel of Mark 16: 15-20
The Ascension of the Lord
Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them: ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’
  And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

In England we get two opportunities to celebrate the Ascension - Thursday and Sunday - so two opportunities to reflect. 

On Thursday it was the mystery of the mission; the dramatic phrasing of this passage concentrates the mind onto the mission; what the early disciples were doing and what we are meant to be doing now.

But there is still the miracle of the Ascension  to consider, a simpler 'going home' statement couldn't be imagined but then - where is Jesus and what is he doing?

They say it's all in the translation, and in this one, Jesus does not sit down - he takes his place at God's right hand. A small difference? Maybe or maybe not; the difference between an active and a static intention.  

My own impression of God the Father certainly fits in with the keywords we have been learning in school - omnipresent, omnipotent, omni-benevolent. A beyond imagining  God who we rest in; who counts feathers on sparrows and hairs on heads and knits babies in the womb; at the same time throwing stars into space and spinning galaxies out into the darkness. I imagine Jesus has not had the opportunity to sit down even now. 

Which is what the Gospel says - that the Lord is working with us - as closely as the Father is creating; his Son is guiding our lives and our stewardship; putting words in our mouths; love in our hearts; compassion in our actions. Wherever 'up' is - it is not 'away' - Jesus is 'now here' everywhere. 

And then, that Jesus is at the right hand of God; in readings and reflections the hand of power; of might; of authority. But whether we are talking left or right there are many mythologies to consider.

As a left-hander myself, I would say it was the hand of 'getting in the way'.   To be on the right hand of a right-handed person actually restrains their movements and actions; God gives authority to his Son and also accepts the authority he has given. The left hand of Jesus, being nearest to his Father is the hand of acceptance, obedience and justice. It accepts the authority of his Father - an authority that had used threats, violence and death in past ages -and transforms it.   In Kabbalah, the right hand is a hand of power but it is not to be feared - it is the hand of Abraham - a hand that transforms justice into loving-kindness - into compassion - into mercy.

Jesus has not robed himself in splendour and set himself to shine with the armour of judgment; he has given away nothing of his humanity- he is still the servant king. He is the Word and the word is  Love -  his right hand reaching out eternally to the outcast; the sinner; the unclean; to us all.


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