Monday, May 13, 2013


We are currently in the mini-season of Ascension-tide (or a sub-season within Easter, from Jesus’ ascension forty days after his resurrection until his sending the Holy Spirit at Pentecost ten days later). The following are three apparently unconnected observations that have struck me over the past few days:

[1] Reveal/Conceal

Ascension Day. The heavens and the earth simultaneously reveal and conceal the glory of God in Christ Jesus, defying our insistence to delineate, to divide-and-conquer...

This is a mystery, which cannot be explained but only lived: a way of being that recognises that our world is made of the heavens and the earth, bound together in the person of Jesus; a way of living that acknowledges the limit to our understanding, and of our role – not just that there is, at present, a limit, but that there will always be a limit; a way of living that acknowledges the voice within that tells us that (we see enough to recognise that) there is more to life than we can see, and with both joy (in response to revelation) and humility (in response to concealment) comes alongside others who sense the same.

[2] A table, spread

“You prepare a table for me in the presence of those who trouble me.” Psalm 23:5a

We are invited to participate in a meal. But we are not invited alone: those who trouble us – those whom we would describe as our enemies, even – are also invited to the same table; and we are invited, and challenged, to sit in one another’s presence. At this table, neither ‘us’ nor ‘them’ is the host; we are all the guests of honour. And as we learn to listen to one another and to recognise one another as honoured guests at the table, so healing oil is poured over us and rubbed into wounds, some of which they have inflicted on us, some of which we have inflicted on them, and some of which are self-inflicted. This happens as our wounded-ness is first gently exposed – and that is only possible in the company of those who trouble us: whose values and answers to life differ from our own, calling into question our unknown assumptions. This does not happen when we sit at table only with those who do not trouble us, because they are like us; for in such company the wounds we need healed remain hidden.

[3] Perspective

If we view and present people primarily in terms of the categories ‘economic resource,’ ‘economic threat,’ or ‘economic drain,’ then we must also view and present the Slave Trade, the Holocaust and the Killing Fields as virtue we have lost...

When we stop and think about it, this might not be the kind of society we want to nurture.

How might Ascension-tide help to resource an alternative way of viewing and presenting people? As those for whom Jesus intercedes at the right hand of the Father? As those who might be caught up into the heavens with him – hidden in Christ, the One who has accomplished his work and handed on his mission; the King of a kingdom in which there is no meritocracy, where the first shall be last and the last first, and yet where it costs every citizen everything they have; the Ancient of Days and Wounded One?

If there is a common theme among these three thoughts, it is this: that Ascension-tide opens us to the limits of our fear-bound categories; and in so doing prepares us for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all flesh, young and old, male and female, Jew and gentile – to diversity expressed in the unity of love.

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