(Ascension Window, St Peter's, Casnewydd Bach-Little Newcastle, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
I am finally trying something new, and I hope you all can bear with me. I'm starting to learn how to use BlogPress on my iPad so I can blog "on the go" and not have to take my laptop with me. So you may notice some minor changes with fonts, etc. Be patient with my learning curve!
The thing that always strikes me about this version of the Ascension is the total inability of the disciples to recognize the two white robed figures are angels, and that, instead of recognizing that Christ's kingdom is still here, as evidenced by the presence of these two, that instead they go off and hide in fear.
I think it has to do with Heaven being composed of both "now" and "not yet.". Our tendency is to think of it as a "not yet" place, a place where everything that's "wrong" will be made "right," and a place where everything we did wrong will be all straightened out. We don't like to consider that part of creating the "not yet" of Heaven means trying to do the best we can, with God's help, about the messy part of "now."
Right from the get-go, the disciples had controversy on their hands. Jesus, their teacher, was gone...AGAIN. I think about when we have experienced a great loss, or a totally unexpected circumstance, we are just blindsided by the flood of emotions that comes with it. We simply only deal with the ones we have comfort with. So we are often blind to things right in front of our noses. in that sense, I don't think the disciples screwed up. I just think they did the best they could at the time it was happening, and I know sometimes, in my own life, it's just a fact that the best I could do at the time, still wasn't very good.
But God, I believe, is pretty darn patient compared to me. (God does do-overs all the time. It always makes me wonder, for every "angel" I do see, how many did he send by that I missed?) Of course, we all know the do-over comes at Pentecost in the church calendar...and what a do-over it was!
Controversy is something we tend to try to avoid in the church. We shy away from it, because somehow, it intuitively feels like it’s not consistent with the way God would have it. God wants us to all be happy and nice to each other and get along, right? But that intuition, is, in fact, an illusion. How we feel about controversy speaks to the innermost core of who we are in relationship with God. Often, we find what makes us uncomfortable in the church is what is most uncomfortable about our own feelings of unworthiness in the presence of the Divine. The reality is that we should strive to embrace controversy, because if we can simply sit and hear all the voices that compose it, we create opportunities for us to be receptive to knowledge and experience that will touch the core of who we are as children of God.
So ultimately, we shouldn't fear controversy, but instead strive to remain present in it and try our best to hear all the voices in it. I believe when we work on being present, with a listening ear and a loving heart, we create more inclusive space in the "now" of Heaven, and that, in effect, makes the "not yet" of Heaven bigger.