with you always

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 47; 147:12-20, Daniel 7:9-14, Hebrews 2:5-18, Matthew 28:16-20

Ascension readings:
Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47:1-9, Ephesians 1:15-23

Today is Ascension Thursday, the feast when we celebrate the gospel accounts of the resurrected Christ’s ascent into heaven. Theologians understand this event in many ways, from a literal rising into heaven, to a symbolic reunion of Christ with the Creator God. Whatever our personal understanding, there is a common paradox: by departing from all of us, Christ is able to be with any of us.

In Matthew’s gospel, Christ shared these words with his disciples shortly before he departed: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” After the resurrection, Christ appeared to many people, yet his presence was still limited to those in his immediate vicinity. The idea of every follower building a personal relationship with Christ may have been inconceivable – when he was busy walking and talking with others, he was by definition not walking and talking with you. But the risen and ascended Christ? That is a transcendent and inexhaustible presence not limited by time or space. You and I and everyone else have equal access to him all the time.

If a transcendent Christ seems too abstract to relate to, remember that for a time he shared all our human experiences. The letter to the Hebrews tells us: “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” Feeling temptation? Don’t beat yourself up about it; so did Christ. Feeling angry? The gospels give us several examples of an angry Jesus. Feeling despair? On the cross Christ asked why God had forsaken him. Feeling afraid? In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweat blood while asking if the cup he was to bear could be taken from him. Whatever terrible thing you feel, Jesus has felt it also. And – living in human form – he overcame. We don’t have to be superhuman to imitate Christ, but we do have to follow his teachings to be fully human in a way that transcends the flesh.

We are a resurrection people. We are an ascension people. We are Christ’s body on earth, and therefore can never be apart from him.

Comfort: Christ is with us to the end of the age.

Challenge: Meditate on the wonder of the Ascension.

Prayer: God of life and possibility, I will trust you to be with me at all times. Amen.

Discussion: What does the Ascension mean to you?

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