May 14, 2015
I love those feet. It’s that medieval trope, the way artists would paint, carve, solder images of Christ’s Ascension: eleven disciples neatly framed, standing around, gazing upwards, and a pair of feet—just feet—spilling off the top of the frame. Like Jesus is so dynamic, so in motion up up up, that the artist couldn’t quite capture him in time. But I love, too, that it’s his feet—the feet that trod the roads of Galilee, the feet still bearing the marks where the nails pierced him—I love that it’s the most earthbound, ordinary part of us that is the last glimpse we get as Jesus ascends to heaven.
As Christians in an Anglican tradition, we sure do love to talk about the incarnation. We find our faith rooted in what it means that God loved us so much he came down to be with us, became one of us: not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. God took on flesh and walked this earth and in doing so, filled all of humanity, all of creation, all of matter, with God’s own divine presence.
And on this Feast of the Ascension, we consider the flip side of that: the close reflection and the perfect corollary. What it means that Jesus loves us so much that he led the way for us not only through death and the grave, not only into a new kid of resurrection life, but up up up to heaven and into the divine presence in a new way. That in ascending in human flesh he filled all heaven, all the realms of the divine, with matter, with stuff, with our very ordinary humanity. Today Jesus leads us—leads you and me— to the very right hand of God. With Jesus we are all raised, glorified.
In Luke’s version of this story in Acts, two men in white robes—just like the two men in white Luke places at the empty tomb—two men in white chide the disciples as they stand around gazing at the sky: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” And I get it, I really do. After all, right before his ascension, Jesus reminds his disciples—reminds us—there’s work to be done. Stop gazing upwards; go and get those feet dusty. But on this principal feast day—this day the church tells us is as important as Christmas, as Easter Day itself!—I think it’s meet and right to gaze up to heaven in awe and wonder at the mystery of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Alleluia, alleluia!
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.