On Ascent

 

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“The gospel is fiction when judged by the empire, but the empire is fiction when judged by the gospel.” ~ Walter Brueggemann

The other day I found myself looking up.

I was riding my bike through the empty streets of Detroit and heard a thunderous noise.
As I took my headphones off and looked around I noticed people on there balconies and coming out of their houses to look up as military planes flew in formation over the city in solidarity with aid workers, and doctors and nurses; the heroes of our time. I found myself welling up with pride that something as glorious as these planes ascending was happening in our city.
People started to look around at each other with hope, like we felt seen after so many long days of uncertainty and loneliness.
Those planes gave us hope while letting us know we were seen but also who was still in charge in a way.
And thats fine and beautiful.

I started to think about the story at the end of Luke and beginning of acts of Christ ascending into heaven.

As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.”

 When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?”

He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”

These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.”

Acts 1 The Message

In the passage we find a disciple asking Jesus before he ascends if now was the time Jesus would bring his revolution to Jerusalem and overthrow those in charge?
Jesus answered that they should wait and soon they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit and it would be even better than a bloody revolution.
It seems Jesus was always having to subvert their expectations about what His purpose was even until the end.

Why did the disciples not get it even at this point?
They had lived there whole lives under Roman occupation of an emperor who was touted as a God.
Actually, in 44 bc there was an astrological event referred to as Caesar’s Comet. For 7 days it was visible and everyone believed it was Caesar ascending to the heavens and becoming a God.
We know this because the comet and his face were a common image that was even printed on the money.

A kingdom who’s king is truly a God would have no end.

Before Christ ascends He gives them their mission, to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth and before their eyes he goes up into his glory.
I understand not wanting to look back down.
When I saw those planes the other day and it gave me hope, I understood that when I looked down, I’d be back in the same world we’re living in now and that hope of a better time would be far away.

When Jesus ascended he didn’t take the hope with him.

When Jesus ascended to the throne at the right hand of the father, He became closer than ever before. This is a movement I see through scripture. We keep realizing God is closer and closer until we get to the ascension. He’s not just a person walking around on earth but a person seated on the thrown ruling and reigning in and through everything who is now closer to us than the air we breathe.
Not only the that but the book of Hebrews in the New Testament says:

“We do not have a high priest King who cannot empathize with us in our pain.”

He knows what you’ve been through, what you’re going through and how it feels. He’s been lied to, betrayed, talked about behind his back, plotted against and now he is closer to us than he’s ever been and will be with us always.

When we find ourselves looking up, what are we looking for?

What we are looking up for reveals what our hope is in.
What some of the disciples were looking for revealed they still wanted a military coup.
What I was looking for revealed I wanted to know I was seen and better days were ahead.
Some of us are still waiting for Jesus to come back to reign, but he is not absent.

In fact there is no where he is not.
He has filled all things with himself.

But isn’t this a human? Yes.

then how can,

Just yes.

It’s a mystery,

Jesus Reigns above all and there is a human seated at the right hand of God who can empathize with all of our weakness, fills everything, and who’s kingdom has no end.

As they waited in Jerusalem the disciples were about to see how close this God was willing to get.

Let us set our eyes on things above where we will see the cross was just the beginning.

 

Experience Hope,
Drew

Apocalypse Please (Unveiled Hope)

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Growing up we didn’t have a lot of DVDs.

The first DVDs we ever bought were “The Emperor’s New Groove” and “Recess: School’s Out”.
We didn’t even own a DVD player…
We were just so excited to even have DVDs in the house (and that they had weird mini-games on them) that my sister and I didn’t even mind we could only watch them on our 1999 Windows ME desktop computer.

As we got older our DVD collection grew and so did our taste which, I can only speak for myself, had some rough years. It mostly consisted of superhero movies and disaster movies.
“The Day After Tomorrow” was one of them.

I couldn’t tell you why I liked it.
Was it the bad CGI wolves, the early Jake Gyllenhaal, or just the idea of living through these sort of disasters?
There’s a triumph of the human spirit element to many of these movies, a man against nature aspect I’m sure I found appealing at 13 and it wasn’t something I had just found in “TDAT” (as us fans called it).
I really loved “Dante’s Peak” too, with Pierce Brosnan, and “Volcano” with Tommy Lee Jones. (Remember when volcano movies were in?)
(No?)
(Maybe I just had a thing for volcano movies..)

The last disaster movie I saw was “2012” (in 2009).
Remember that one? (Really feels like they should’ve waited 3 years to release it.)
It was supposed to be the disaster movie to end all disaster movies, and for me it did.
I don’t remember liking or disliking it, just that it was there and afterwards I was apparently done with disaster movies (other than an ironic group trip to see Nicholas Cage’s “Left Behind”).

Right now in 2020 the film “Contagion” is the most rented movie on AppleTV as we find ourselves in a bit of a real life disaster of our own. Some have been calling such a time “The Apocalypse”. They may be half kidding but they wouldn’t be completely wrong.
Rather I would call such a thing “An Apocalypse”.

Apocalypse comes from a greek word meaning to reveal or unveil. It has a lot more to do with seeing what was behind something all along or seeing things in a new light and gaining a new perspective than it does the world ending.

(Wait really????)

(Yes really.)

(But what about judgement and volcanos and plagues and ice ages and Nicholas Cage????)

More like something happens that you will never see the world the same way again. Sometimes it takes a new context to see things as they really are, it takes a disruption, a new setting, even grief.
What’s revealed in a breakup?
Is it that we need to change?
Our flaws?
Hopefully after grieving or mourning a relationship we find ourselves able to see clearly what was behind our actions which can lead us to positive change.
This is a personal Apocalypse.
Another good word for something like this is an epiphany.

In this time of COVID-19, life feels like it’s on hold.

To be honest (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this),
I am often not sure what day it is.
It can easily feel like we’re missing out on so much living.
There are so many places I want to go that aren’t open.
There are so many concerts I wish I could go to, but what would that even look like right now?
Days can go by and I can start to regret that I didn’t get to go on that trip in March that I was excited about (like it’s my fault when it obviously wasn’t in my control anyway).

I find myself in a trap of thinking life is on hold and I’ll be happy when it just starts back up again. (What does that reveal about me?)

Life is on hold?

No this is life.

It’s happening right now.

It’s not the way you thought it was going to be and it’s not bound by the same old systems or expectations.

It’s been shaken.

Let us not get stuck in missing what might have been, we’ll find ourselves missing out on the life that is happening now.
Don’t let hope go by the wayside because we’re caught up mourning what might have been.

But what about when the whole world is grieving?

This is where we find ourselves now.

In this time of COVID-19 People are dying.
We don’t know when it will end.
Governments and systems that we’ve had faith in don’t seem to be able to agree on what help should look like.
Some people’s hope and frankly their religion, is politics. However, no matter where you fall ideologically, we’re seeing it’s limits.
There’s a passage in the book of Hebrews in the New Testament that says this,

“All that can be shaken will be shaken, and only the unshakable will remain.”

Times like these reveal undersides of how our society works.
How things can be so easily mismanaged and people can be thrown by the wayside.
It can be so easy to be discouraged and lose hope when I see my city has the third most COVID-19 cases in the nation as we mourn our world and those lost.

My dad reminded me a few weeks back of that Mr. Rogers quote about looking for the helpers.

The helpers come out in times like this.
Who they are is revealed.
I find hope when I see my friends planting urban gardens for everyone in their community.

I find hope when I hear about friends choosing to shelter the homeless in their own home.

I find hope when I find out friends were able to donate laptops for schooling to families with so many kids it would make your head spin.

But we’re not to stop there.

Friends we have more resources and connections than we think.
You need hope, look to those, and once you have that hope, join them in the way only you can.
It’s not just, “see there are the helpers”, it’s “now go and do like-wise”.
We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but in doing so we deny evil it’s last word and acknowledge there is good working even in this.

I pray all of this brings folks back to our simplest calling, to love God and love the world and others as yourself, all made in God’s image.
Let us mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep. Let us not turn away from what is going on in the world right now but face it and feel it. Let us not lose hope that things can be made right and join in that good work.

Experience Hope,

Drew