Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. I told my class that it is my favorite feast day because it explains everything. Someone said that they thought Pentecost was more important, to which I agreed. I do not say Ascension Thursday is the most important, I said it is my favorite because it explains everything.
Jesus was born and we celebrate it at Christmas. Good Friday and Easter Sunday/Season recall His death, burial and resurrection. God's saving work is manifest in these three and continues with Jesus' enthronement in heaven (at the right hand of the Father). The sending of the Holy Spirit (manifest at Pentecost) is the seal of the deal. We now live in "the church age" which means the presence of Jesus is mediated in and through people, places and things. Jesus is with us in Word and Sacrament. Jesus is present in the Body of Believers. The Holy Spirit is the mode of that presence. For the most part it is intangible, available only to those with discerning hearts. Sometimes you have to look really hard to see Him.
So what does the Ascension explain? Our current situation. Endless conflict and disunity. Political people are blind to the virtues of their opponents and the vices of their friends because they are so intent on the battle. Little girls are kidnapped and held as sex slaves for ten years. People take from others what is rightfully theirs because they can and then ridicule the person whose pockets they have picked for being a whiner. Jesus asked us to love one another and remain in unity, the same unity He has with the Father. So we split into East and West, then subdivide the West into myriad denominations, and now further into much smaller units called "independent" or "non-denominational." How much longer until we reach the point of "a church of one"?
Salvation is a long process which begins with the creation and continues with the giving of God's word in Law and Prophets. God conquers sin and death in Jesus, God embraces and is in union with us, by His activity. He loves us so He joins with us in the Incarnation (taking on our nature) the mission and ministry (proclaiming the Kingdom in word and deed), His passion (an example of courage, by His wounds we are healed), His death on the Cross (sacrificial Lamb, great High Priest, Model, Victor over sin and death), His descent among the dead (God/Life consumes Death), His resurrection, His enthronement (Jesus Victor) and His gift of the Spirit (I am with you always until the end of the age). It is accomplished (as He said on the cross). Yet one thing remains, "He shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom shall have no end). Thy Kingdom come. Until the Kingdom comes, we live in 'our current situation.'
In the Kingdom little girls will walk the streets without fear. Political leaders will serve, without ego or self seeking. Truth will rule and light; our lies and darkness will be dispersed like a mist before a great wind. And the body of believers, shorn of personal opinions, will worship as one great body of loving worshippers.
Why can we not do it now? Because of Me. My selfishness and sin still rules. As long as I am around, none of you can successfully create the Kingdom. And when I am gone, there will still be you. Did I mention that you are the problem as well? We need Someone to save us. We need the life and power of God to mend our wounds, heal our brokeness and fix our sin. Every human effort to create a paradise (be it a monarchy, a republic, a communist state, or some sort of socialist democracy) fails. There are always winners and losers. The weak always get trampled by the strong. There are always those whose own foibles prevent the larger whole from success. There are no lack of good ideas about how to make the world a better place; there is a lack of ability to implement the ideas, as well as an inablity to see the unexpected consequences of the choices. In the end, the world is a mess in large part because we have made it so.
Jesus is gone. Long gone. Taken "up" into heaven (and if you fly space craft you will not find Him) where in the invisible realm of God He waits. He will be back. Until then, our current situation remains what it is. He rules, but not on earth. Not yet. So we wait and our hearts are hungry, our spirits are thirsty. We discover a great longing within us. Even the best of days, however wonderful, seem as likely to stir up a greater desire than provide satisfaction. We laugh and clap and cry out "this is wonderful" while a small voice whispers "but I want more, need more, seek more..." We want, desire, need the Kingdom. We were made for the fullness of life with God. We were made by Jesus, for Jesus and we will only be truly at peace when we are with Jesus.
Our current situation? A time of not yet fulfilled promise... A time of samples, small bites of the Feast, making us hungry for more... A time of joy which longs for greater Joy, love which aspires to perfect Love, and peace which awaits the Shalom of God's Kingdom. So we cry, "Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!"