Sunday, June 1, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

The Ascension of the Lord, as described in today’s scriptures, involves several elements: departure, promise, calling, and sending forth.

These are tied together in one package or religious experience that only have great significance if they remain together.
The ascension event culminates in the Pentecost event. We can see in this a similarity to the death and resurrection of the Lord as one united experience.

Even though we celebrate them separately and distinctly, we know that they are irrevocably tied together as one flowing experience of death and resurrection. They need each other to explain the significance of either and both.

We are saved, not because Jesus died or rose, but because Jesus died and rose. This may seem obvious and a little like splitting hairs but, in fact, this is profound truth.

The "scene" of Jesus’ ascension into heaven was devastating. Once again, Jesus was about to leave his disciples very much alone. This could in no way be interpreted as good news. But Jesus' departure was a packaged deal that involved the potential explosion of faith in Jesus Christ, as the disciples were instructed to go forth “and make disciples of all nations” even to “the ends of the earth.”

Jesus was no ordinary teacher or master. All seemed to recognize that he spoke with authority, that is, he authored his words, thoughts and teachings. They flowed not from another person but from his own person, his own authority. That authority, he would later proclaim, was rooted in total unity with his Father.

It soon became clear that his staying among his disciples would actually prevent them from ever owning the message and fully understanding their calling and mandate to go forth and preach his good news. His ascension meant that they had to fully respond to Jesus’ call, be fully open to the promise and reception of God’s Spirit upon and within them, and accept the call to go forth – even to the ends of the earth.

Ascension and Pentecost are that full package. It is all tied together. Although we celebrate these feast days separately, they really cannot be separated. They are all one.

Jesus' death and resurrection bring about the victory over sin and death.

Ascension and Pentecost call and send us forth to share the good news, and through them, to find life – life eternal.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142; or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

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