The Spirit Beckons

Luke 24:44-53 & Acts 1:1-11 – Ascension Sunday, the final Sunday of Easter – for May 17, 2015

“He led them out as far as Bethany, where he lifted his hands and blessed them. As he blessed them, he left them and was taken up to heaven.” (Luke 24:50-51)

A lake in the southern Yosemite wilderness . . .
A lake in the southern Yosemite wilderness . . .

What are the basics of life?

Shelter. Clothes. Food. Water.

However, each basic need has qualifications: Shelter from warmth or cold, adequate clothes, healthy food, and safe water.

When backpacking, I carry tools for the qualifications. Much of my hiking has been in California’s Sierra Nevada, a few hours drive from my home. Until the last few years of the devastating, worrisome drought, water has been abundant. The winter snowpack typically melts and feeds the alpine lakes and meandering rivers. Once I lived in Wisconsin, where the first snow can fall in October and the final flurry may transform April into a winter wonderland . . . as in, I wonder if spring will ever arrive? I told my shivering cheesehead neighbors we had more snow in California, but it was properly stored in the mountains. In 1982, 67 inches of snow accumulated at Echo Summit, south of Lake Tahoe. All of those inches fell in 24 hours! At the time it was the second highest total for snow in a day in the United States. Continue reading →

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Magical Thinking

Luke 24:44-53 & Acts 1:1-11 – Ascension Day – for Sunday, May 12, 2013 (or May 9, 2013 for ascension sticklers)

“…he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven…” (Luke 24:51)

I felt compelled to write about Jesus’ ascension to heaven. And, as Fox Mulder fervently intoned on the classic “X Files” television show, “I want to believe.”Fox-Mulder-fox-mulder-25366898-500-375

I wanted to believe Luke and Acts were correct when they described Jesus rising from earth to the sky and then . . . out of sight. I want to believe Ephesians 4:8-10 (“…when he ascended far above the heavens…”) and I Timothy 3:16 (“taken up in glory…”) were additional factual, Biblical and faithful confirmations of Jesus’ divine flight.

This is what I told myself on the morning I read (again) about Jesus’ ascension and decided this time I’d approach it as true.

It happened!

But I couldn’t do it. Not for a thoughtful moment. Not for a faithful second.

I think the ascension is holy who-ha. Fanciful faith. It’s splashy and flashy but without a dash of historical veracity.

While I wonder about the contradictory and confounding resurrection stories, there’s an inexplicable core belief that something transcendent happened to, with and for Jesus at Easter. I can read, and agree with, critical scholars like Bert Ehrman or Marcus Borg (who have rigorously questioned the Biblical accounts of the resurrection) and yet their views don’t shake my Easter faith. Indeed, Ehrman, Borg and other progressive scholars have strengthened my faith. Continue reading →

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A Third Way

Luke 24:44-53 & Acts 1:1-11 – Ascension Sunday – for May 20, 2012

“…They said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand look up toward heaven?”

Am I a bad boy for not believing?

Here, take the chalk, hustle over to the old blackboard and start writing.

Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud. Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud. Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud. Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud. Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud. Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud. Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud. Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud. Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud. Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud.

Ten times. It could be a hundred. For me, it doesn’t matter how often the chalk screeches across the board.

And yet shouldn’t I feel bad, maybe don a dunce cap and mope in the digital corner of a virtual classroom, for not believing that less than two months after his resurrection, Jesus was “lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight?” According to the Acts of the Apostles, that’s what happened! Or, maybe, since a cloud (nor two men in white robes) wasn’t mentioned in the other version—Luke’s Gospel—Jesus simply “withdrew from them and was lifted into heaven?”

Hold your horses and scriptural references! Acts had Jesus on a cloud…but Luke didn’t? Two men were present in Acts…but absent in Luke? Why couldn’t the guy who wrote both Luke and Acts get his facts straight? Uh-oh, with a question like that I may have to retreat to the blackboard for more screechy punishment . . .

I believe everything the Bible says. I believe everything the Bible says. I believe everything the Bible says. I believe everything the Bible says. I believe everything the Bible says. I believe everything the Bible says. I believe everything the Bible says. I believe everything the Bible says. I believe everything the Bible says. I believe everything the Bible says.

I’m a bad, bad boy.

I also don’t believe the world was created in six days (though I lean toward believing And on the seventh day, God napped…), crossing the Red Sea without a need for a dry change of clothes, Elijah swooshing upward on a flaming chariot, Daniel in the den of lions, three wise guys from the east or nearly any prediction in the Revelation of John.

Quite a few objects reach into the atmosphere...don't think reaching heaven on a cloud is one of them.**

Sorry, I don’t believe Jesus ascended through the troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere and beyond.

What don’t you believe?

But with God, all things are possible. Right? Haven’t even I, Mr. Don’t Take The Bible Literally, claimed that statement before? If I believe in the divine power of forgiveness shared between two people or the transcendent gift of a sacrament found in a bit of bread and a dollop of wine, why can’t I wrap my faith around Jesus’ flight beyond the pull of gravity and through the earth’s atmosphere? I. Just. Don’t.

But this I do believe:  however anyone reads the accounts of Jesus’ birth-life-message-ministry-betrayal-death-and-life-again, every book in the Christian testaments (the 27 books of the traditional canon or the thousands of tales never included) arm-wrestled with the truth of . . . his absence. Continue reading →

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