The power and the presence
Christ’s ascension, which we celebrate today, deals with a reality that his beyond what is purely physical and earthly. It is a Christian mystery that touches the highest aspirations of the human spirit.
In theology, Christ’s resurrection and ascension are referred to as two aspects of one reality. The ascension is the end of his physical appearances to his disciples and the beginning of Christ’s spiritual presence among them. Where the physical ends, the spiritual somehow begins. The spiritual represents a higher reality which can subsist on its own. The spiritual gives the physical its soul and its significance. In death, the spiritual separates from the physical. In the resurrection and ascension, the spiritual, by its own power, reunites with the physical for the fullness of life in God.
On the rock inside the Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem can be found a footprint which is identified by Christian tradition as the print that Jesus left as he ascended into heaven. The original building was destroyed by the Persians in 614. The Crusaders rebuilt it into an octagonal structure in the 12th century. It has been converted into a mosque by the Muslims, to whom it has belonged since the 13th century.
Fortunately, Christianity is not a religion of relics. Christianity is not about archeology, history or even theology. Christianity is not about the historical truth of the gospels or the theological and moral implications of a dogma of faith.
Christianity is about a power and a presence that encompass the physical and the institutional. The resurrection and ascension assert Christ’s power among us as we are commissioned to bring his presence into the world. Christianity is about the continuing presence of God in the Church which is not a fortress to keep the world out. God’s presence is brought to the world through the lives of believers. The church is people who are imbued with the Spirit. United by the spirit, our being church is a living testament of a people who adheres to the power of the resurrection and ascension in our lives. Our being church is a witness of God’s presence in a world that has lost its sense of the spiritual and the eternal.