As I write this, it’s Ascension Day, the day the church remembers that after his death and resurrection, Jesus was bodily taken into heaven as his friends watched. This is not the most astonishing thing that happened in this part of the Acts of the Apostles, for something bigger was yet to come.
The story of Jesus’ life, as told by the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles, reaches its summit as the Spirit of God comes to where the disciples are holed-up and “filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” (Acts 2: 2-4) For the author of Luke, the coming of the Holy Spirit is the point of the story of Jesus, the purpose of God’s actions accomplished by Jesus in his life. As far as Luke is concerned, the Spirit is the reason Jesus came to earth: that we might be immersed into the holy power of God and continue to participate in what God designs for all creation.
With the significance of this Godly gift to us, I wonder why we seem to have so little understanding of the Holy Spirit and of her character. (I deliberately use the feminine pronoun here because it is a tradition that reaches back into Jewish history when The Spirit of God — “wisdom” — was always a “she.” Also, I think it important to erase the false lines of distinction when we call God “He,” or “Father,” while eliminating any feminine reference to God’s nature. It seems to me to be less threatening to folks to refer to the Spirit as ‘she’ than to referring to God as ‘she,’ even though theologians would yank my Trinitarian card for suggesting the possibility of a separate identity for God creator, incarnate and sustainer!) It would be a mistake to say the Holy Spirit had been held in some sort of stasis until she was set free on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit of God, present at the beginning of creation, never left us. She was present as the waters gathered on the earth, in the pyre prepared for Isaac, in the fire of the burning bush, and in the hearts of God’s faithful as we were exiled from our homeland.
Jesus’ ascension provided the opportunity for God to ‘kick start’ our collective memory reminding us that what gave Jesus the RIGHT to call God his Parent, the POWER to feed 5,000 people, and the WISDOM to give high dignity to the oppressed was nothing less than the pervasive presence of God that drives all creation towards its objective: ONE. This Holy Spirit, this presence and character of God that permeates all that exists in the universe, is nothing less than God!
When we pray, we do so with the presence of the Spirit of God who inspires the prayer, who moves our lips, and who plants hope in us. When we are confronted with oppression and are moved to fight for liberation, it is the Spirit of God in us initiating and effecting that movement. Experiencing loss and death, it is the Spirit who draws us towards inner-healing, and which binds us to those who are lost in death yet still are connected to us in a new way.
The Ascension of Jesus becomes a literary device that moves all people (even non-believers, in Acts) from the reliance on the story of Jesus as the source of liberation, healing and oneness, to the awesome knowledge that the continued story of liberation and healing for the world is ours. We are not left alone in this holy task, but share in the lifeblood of the Spirit of God whence all hope for liberation and unity comes.
+ + +
+ + +
Adult Forum Meets Sunday: Did you have a chance to listen to Rev. Karen’s amazing reflection on love and friendship last Sunday, May 9? (You’ll find it here with the sermon beginning at 22:50) You might have been reflecting ever since on how to use this time in our lives to make some changes.
Much has been written about the opportunity we have to create something good as we emerge from this pandemic. Life will be different for sure; but will it be better as a result of the time-out that’s been inflicted on us?
At this Sunday’s 11 a.m. Adult Forum we’re talking about using this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to push the reset button. What could be different about the ways we reach out to friends and to those who could be friends? What will we do with our biases? Our judgments? Our preconceived notions about other people’s appearances, opinions, life choices?
Bring your thoughts and questions to the group. And if you’ve ever felt your views might be unwelcome at the Adult Forum, set aside that notion and join us. We’re all emerging from God’s time-out together. Let’s make sure we emerge as true friends, loving one another as Christ calls us.
Find the Adult Forum ZOOM link in my e-blast for Saturday, May 15. Not receiving it? Get on the list!
We’ll see you at St. John’s!