Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 47; 147:12-20, Ezekiel 1:1-14, 24-28(b), Hebrews 2:5-18, Matthew 28:16-20
Readings for The Ascension of the Lord:
Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47:1-9, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53
Today many churches celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, or the bodily ascent of the risen Christ into heaven. This story challenges the modern and scientific mind. Its accompanying readings are no less difficult. Ezekiel’s vision of four-faced beings and a god of fiery metal are highly symbolic and almost incomprehensible to anyone but a dedicated Bible scholar. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews explains the human and divine interplay in the person of Jesus. Heady material that for many of us is fairly inaccessible.
In contrast, the Matthew reading is short and clear: Jesus asserts his authority and commissions the disciples to spread his commands and teachings to make and baptize more disciples. Notably his teachings did not include technicalities like hypostatic union or Miaphysitism: Christ’s nature in both the human and the divine, versus a nature which is of both. Clearly different… right? Yet centuries ago these semantics, which matter not one iota to loving as Christ instructed, caused schisms that last to this day. Passages like the one in Hebrews fueled the debate. What do we imagine Christ – who brought together Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles – might say about his followers feuding over such distinctions?
Theological discussions have their place; after all, why follow Christ if we do not believe he is a unique confluence of the human and the divine? But sometimes we get so wrapped up thinking or talking about faith we become like people who believe reading a child psychology book equips them to be parents; being able to quote theories does not help us touch a human life in a loving way. Maybe we don’t denounce Monophysitism (don’t ask) on a daily basis, but based on mere opinion we do make “religious” distinctions of the kind Christ worked to overcome. Even our choice of Biblical translation may decide whether we are “in” or “out” with a specific clique, congregation or denomination.
Christ’s nature – human or divine – was radically inclusive. Any effort spent separating us from others, rather than loving them, betrays that nature. Christ tells us to love God and our neighbor. Why add more?
Comfort: Christ’s commands are simple.
Challenge: Look up “Christology” on Wikipedia or another reference.
Prayer: Holy God, may your love live in my heart and not just my head. Amen.
Discussion: When have you encountered religion getting in the way of following Christ?
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