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Life in Greencastle - Ascension of Jesus

Today is "Ascension of Jesus" day.

Yes, I am serious. No, this is not something that Hallmark made up and promoted in order to sell more cards.

"Ascension of Jesus" is a Christian day of celebration. ["Okay, Wes, but what is it all about?"]

Well, it all began when Jesus came back from the dead. He - as those earliest of disciples tell us - literally came back to life ... in flesh and blood. His body showed the signs of his crucifixion; he had holes in his feet, wrists and a rather gaping hole in his side that Thomas stuck his inquisitive index finger into. Only, there was something different about Jesus' appearance - something glorious ... and dare we say, ghostly? The gospel accounts of our resurrected Lord suggest that he was able to move through walls, to appear and disappear. Yet, he wasn't a ghost. Thomas wasn't the only one to touch him and embrace him. Plus, the disciples saw him eating and drinking.

Still, just about the time the disciples started to wrap their minds and not just their arms around Jesus, something else wonderful and mesmerizing happened. Right as Jesus was giving the disciples something of a pep talk, he started to float away from them, like he was being drawn up into heaven by one of those wires you see at Broadway shows. And like that, Jesus "ascended into heaven."

That was that. Except it wasn't ... the end, I mean. There is still more to the story.

Let me go back to that "theater" analogy and see if I can explain it a bit better.

Let's imagine we were watching this play called "Salvation and Redemption" unfold like we were watching a Shakespearean play. Let's imagine that we've been watching this great drama, this emotional, moving display of good versus evil, of light versus darkness, of order versus disorder. It's a long play. Really long ... like all of history long. But, we've managed to sit through the first act, and, recently, we've seen our hero (Jesus) step onto the stage. We saw him seeking to bring life where there was death and healing where there was injury. And for all of this, evil descended upon him like a pack of wolves. While the stage went black, they killed our hero.

That wasn't the end either, though!

Jesus lived. He came back. And when he came back from the tomb, our hearts fluttered a bit, our eyes began to blink and tear-up. They couldn't keep him down. All looked like it is well. There will be peace, not war; love, not division; order, not confusion. We are on our way to a happy ending. We are waiting for the curtain to come down.

But, that's not what happens. Instead, our hero - right as it looks like the play is over - is taken off stage. Jesus is drawn up into heaven.

Now, that adds a twist, doesn't? It adds suspense. It leaves us in a time of waiting ... and hoping.

The thing is, though, we are not just observing this. It is better to say that we are in the drama. We are up there, with the spotlights on us, involved in this great theater, and that just heightens the suspense. It is as if God has left us on the stage to let us have a go at working towards a happy ending.

Now, we aren't alone. Jesus assured us that even though we can't see him like Thomas saw him after the resurrection, he is still with us. Jesus promised and sent to us the Holy Spirit to make sure we don't get off the "script."

Still, we are waiting ... and we are hoping ...

Because Jesus told the disciples that he would come again. In fact, for the early Christians this was one of their central hopes. "Come, Lord Jesus," they would pray and sing - longing for their hero to come back, to make all things well, to make all things new.

So, on "Ascension of Jesus" day we recognize that God's redemptive work is still going on. We acknowledge that - because it is still going on - sometimes the world looks like it is falling apart. We feel that sometimes our own lives are falling apart. We wonder when - in fact - our God will come to us. And we realize that when you're in the drama (when you don't have the program or script), the waiting is just sooooo suspenseful.

But, above all, on this day we recognize that the same Jesus who was taken into heaven will come again to bring heaven into our lives. That's the goodness of it all, praise be to God,

Wes

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