It’s not so much that we are trying to keep it a secret, but in my faith tradition we just don’t seem to pay it too much attention. I am not sure why. Maybe if it wasn’t so close to Easter the church could work up more energy to celebrate it. Or maybe, the Ascension of Our Lord is just one step too far in faith for us to talk about. Maybe parts of the church have some sort of collective wish not to talk about Jesus rising above the clouds and disappearing to, well, where? Heaven, yes, but where exactly is that, and how do you get there in bodily form? Or, perhaps it is just a very practical problem: it is hard to get people to go to church on Thursday, the day Jesus ascended, so it gets lost in the hustle of life. Did you wake up last Thursday praising God for the Ascension of your Lord?
I have no doubt that Jesus is alive in a glorified body seated next to the Father in some space I cannot see or comprehend. I am thinking though that the reason we don’t make more of the Ascension is that, not only can we not conceive of how it happened, we cannot conceive of why it happened either. Is Jesus hiding from us? It sure seems like it sometimes, doesn’t it? When I talk with my friends whose parents have died unexpectedly; when I cry with spouses who have loved one who are very, very sick; when I wonder with grandparents about the faith of their grandchildren, it is very easy to ask Jesus, why don’t you come and fix this? Why did you choose to leave us alone?
There is an answer of course. I guess there are two answers, at least. One is that Jesus told us, if he leaves us he is going to prepare a place for us to be with him and that if he goes, well, he’s coming back again to get us. The church spends a lot of time worrying about who the “us” is that he’s coming back to retrieve. I don’t worry about that because John Calvin tells me to assume it is everyone and that God has it all figured out, so don’t fret about it. And, by the way, “us” includes “all Israel.” You see, we, the Jews and Christians, I figure we are waiting for the same Messiah to come (again.) But, that is a topic for another day.
And there is a second answer. Jesus didn’t leave us alone. Meet the Holy Spirit, you who are looking for the comforting presence of Jesus. Oh, and go look in the mirror. Maybe the man or woman staring back at you is the presence of Christ. To someone. Today?