Seventh Sunday of Easter / Ascension Sunday
Week of: May 24, 2020
Scripture: Luke 24:44-53
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures ... "You are witnesses to these things." ... While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.
(Luke 24:45, 48, 51, NRSV)
Social distancing still feels awkward, and yet it is unforgettable. It is the image of a daughter signing messages to her elderly mother through a hospital window. It is hearing seniors, as well as my own three-year-old daughter, struggle to understand the need to cancel church.
We encounter these same emotions and motives in the Ascension. The gospel spectrum fully captures the pathos of social distancing. For Mark, it is the simplicity and palpability of fear. In Matthew, we hear Jesus' draconian edict – GO! – in a tone that is, thankfully, offset by John's pastoral explanation that Jesus' leaving benefits us all.
Luke's concern, however, is the broader concept of witness, a vital transition from the gospel to Acts. The kind of social distancing that we see in Luke is painful, hard to understand, but ultimately restorative for our relationship with God. Here, Jesus opens our minds to scripture, avoiding both narrow prescriptions and obscure symbolism, temptations for Matthew’s and John's texts respectively.
The gospel's brilliance inhabits that simple word, open. By opening their minds and their hearts, Jesus empowers the disciples to preach a strange, new doctrine, yet one that, as Acts 17 affirms, is rooted in the everyday experience of life itself. There is no doubt – the experience that we have all shared recently has inspired us all to do things differently. Even still, more now than ever, we find ourselves deeply committed to the core values of the gospel – love, care, hospitality, and God's unfailing presence in our world.
Great Physician, caretaker of our bodies and protector of our souls, through the work of Jesus Christ, you continue to heal our brokenness. By raising your Son in glory, you have restored all of creation to wholeness. Grant that as we dwell on earth below, we too may be instruments of healing, reconciliation, and peace through your holy gospel according to the example we have in our Savior. Amen.
Rev. Sam Chambers
Lone Oak United Methodist Church