From the Lectionary: An Open Letter to Jesus on this Whole Ascension Business


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free
'Jesus Ascension to Heaven 23' photo (c) 2011, Waiting For The Word - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I'm blogging with the lectionary this year, and this week's reading comes from Acts 1: 6-14: 

Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’  He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ 

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.


Dear Jesus, 

We weren’t ready.  

Surely you could have seen that as you floated into the sky, your disciples standing beneath your feet with craned necks, slacked mouths, a million questions, and no clue what to do next. I bet they totally asked those angels which one of them would be greatest in the Kingdom, and Luke just left that part out because, oh my gosh, not again; how embarrassing. 

And while we’re on it, what’s with the floating thing? After all the eating and drinking and healing and laughing and crying, it just doesn’t seem like your style—floating. I like you better with your feet on the ground. 

I’ll be honest, Jesus, Ascension Day brings up some abandonment issues for me. I know you promised we wouldn’t be alone, that you would send a Helper and Advocate, full of power and truth and ready to guide, but let’s face it: the fire of the Spirit is the wild kind. One moment I sense that it’s blazing like the burning bush, the next it’s like it’s out with a poof. I still haven’t figured it out. I still haven’t been able to pin it down. 

I can’t help but think that if you’d stayed a little longer, we might have avoided the Crusades.  Or the Great Schism. Or that time we used the Bible to justify slavery and invoked “Manifest Destiny” to slaughter women and children.  We’ve made a mess of things, Jesus, often in your name. We could use a little micromanaging. 

And yet, as always, you insist on using people before they’re ready, before they’ve got it all figured out—like Abraham, Esther, Moses, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Paul, Martin, and Maya.  Your people, like all people, mess up. Your people, like all people, learn as they go. 

You’re sort of inefficient, Jesus—like a winding river etching out a canyon, like a mother lingering over a lullaby, like art, like grace. You do things on your own time. 

And so here we are,  charged with being your hands in the world. Your eyes. Your laughter. Your tears. Your healing. Your teaching.  Your feet on the ground.   

As another blogger put it: “The absence of Jesus makes room for the possibility of his presence through his people.” 

I don’t know, Jesus.  I guess I just can’t get over how miraculous and infuriating and profound and ridiculous it is that you trust us, that the God of the universe allows sinners to do His work. It’s quite an unconventional plan. There are days when I’m convinced it’s going to fail.  

But we won’t know until we try, right?

So I suppose that on Ascension Day, I best quit standing here staring at the bottoms of your feet, Jesus, and instead get to work—feeding, fellowshipping, healing, teaching, loving, hosting, sharing, breaking bread and pouring wine. 

One day at a time. 

Ready or not. 

Help me, okay?

Love,

Rachel 

***

Anyone else struggle with “abandonment issues” on Ascension Sunday? How does the ascension shape your theology and your everyday life? 

Also, if you’ve written a post around any of this week’s lectionary texts, do share it in the comment section. 

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