“By your agony and bitter grief; by your cross and passion; by your precious death and burial; by your glorious resurrection and ascension; and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, good Lord, deliver us.”
I’m breaking with tradition today. The quote above is not from any of this week’s Bible readings. It’s a line taken from The Litany – my favourite prayer in the Anglican Prayerbook. It came to mind today as it’s the only prayer I know that mentions all the key moments in the life and ministry of Jesus in one sentence:
- The cross
- The resurrection
- The ascension
- The coming of the Spirit
The previous line in The Litany recalls just about everything else we remember about Jesus – His birth, baptism, fasting and temptation. Put together, we have a list of all the events that are celebrated on special Holy Days (many of which are also holidays), such as Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost. We remember all of these great events, that is, except one.
I started writing this on Thursday, May 15th – Ascension Day 2023. You probably missed it. I do most years too. Do we so easily skip past this celebration because we don’t understand the Ascension or because we don’t really believe in it anymore? Perhaps it’s just that no one has worked out how to commercialise it yet?
Despite having four Gospels recording the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, only one of them mentions the Ascension. While Paul and the other New Testament letter-writers clearly believed that Jesus had transitioned from being with them in body to being with God in glory (see Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:19–20, Colossians 3:1, Philippians 2:9–11, 1 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Peter 3:21–22), none of them gives any detail as to how that transition took place. The only detailed account we have comes from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter one, which is scheduled for Sunday:
[Jesus said] “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:8-9).
This description makes the Ascension look like the launch of a rocket-ship, and most artistic portrayals I’ve seen depict something like that. Perhaps it’s just my 21st century mind – steeped in Western science and aeronautics – but I don’t feel comfortable with this, most obviously because I don’t believe God lives in the clouds.
My guess is that, however they might have described their experience, none of the disciples really understood what happened that day. That would not have been unusual, of course. They had seen incurable people healed. They’d seen bread and fish somehow multiplied. They’d seen Jesus walk on water, and they even saw Him shine at one point. Then they saw Him enveloped in a cloud, after which they never saw Him again! I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly what happened, but the message Luke wants us to get from the event is clear enough.
“While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)
What exactly happened to Jesus? According to the men in white, it doesn’t matter. We can stand around, staring up at the clouds for as long as we like, but we’re not going to find any answers there. Jesus will be back but, in the meantime, we’ve got work to do. Indeed, we’ve been commissioned to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
I suspect it’s no coincidence that when the Apostles first made a list of the things they considered fundamental to the faith, the Ascension didn’t get a mention. To quote Saint Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 16:3-4).
Paul then goes on to detail all the people Jesus met with after His resurrection but there’s no mention of the Ascension. Indeed, Paul ends his list of post-resurrection encounters by mentioning his own meeting with Jesus, which took place after the Ascension, suggesting that … well … in a sense, Jesus never really left at all?
Perhaps our tendency to skip over The Ascension each year makes more sense than I first realised. It seems that even the Apostles weren’t sure what to do with it! Yes, it’s true that Jesus is no longer with us in the way He once was but … He is with us nonetheless.
Our Sunday Eucharist
We had another wonderful Eucharist last Sunday. A big thank you to our brothers David, Sam and Joel for their wonderful input. Video highlights are below, including our all-male discussion on the joys of Mothers’ Day, along with my potted history of the Anglican Church.
This Sunday I have Robert and Karyn with me live, and our Swedish brother, Father Ola, sharing his pre-recorded thoughts on the first letter of Peter. Join us any time from around 11.45 am this Sunday on www.thesundayeucharist.com, or on Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn. or Telegram..
Let me work your corner
Thank you once again to all of you who support Fighting Fathers Ministries through your prayers and through monthly financial contributions. If you’re not contributing financially and you can afford to, it would be greatly appreciated if you could go to Patreon.com and sign up to either:
- Enrol in the Fighting Fit training program
- Access member-only training videos
- Engage in the members-only forum (see below)
- All of the above +
- One-on-one mentoring via email, phone, or Skype
- All of the above +
- Unlimited training at Father Dave’s Old School Boxing Academy
- All of the above +
- One weekend per month at Binacrombi Bush Camp.
Every dollar helps keep the wheels turning – the websites, the newsletters, the broadcasts, the boxing club and the bush camp. Sign up at Patreon.com.
- Saturday, May 20th – Rally for Freedom and for Julian Assange (details here).
- Sunday, May 21st – Our Eucharist from midday via thesundayeucharist.com or via Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn. or Telegram
- Tuesday, May 23rd – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Wednesday, May 24th – ‘Free Assange Rally. 10 am in Hyde Park, Sydney
- Thursday, May 25th – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Friday, May 26th to Sunday, May 28th – @ Binacrombi. Please join me
There have been a few changes to this calendar since last week. The Free Assange rally was initially shifted from May 20 to 24 to coincide with the visit of Joe Biden to Sydney. That visit has now been cancelled but the rally on the 24th is still going ahead. The Saturday rally is now back on too, having joined forces with the Freedom March organised by Aussie Cossack (hear all about it from the Cossack here).
In truth, there appear to be multiple causes being championed at this event, some of which may be at cross-purposes with others. Even so, I’ll be speaking there in support of Julian Assange, along with John Shipton (Julian’s dad) and a number of other good souls. I expect I’ll see many of you guys there too.
Two more things to mention:
Firstly, videos of all the speeches at the Down the Rabbit Hole Ball are now online:
- Tony Nikolic (AFL Lawyers)
- Steve McDonald (Australian Firefighters Alliance)
- Professor Gigi Foster (University of NSW)
And finally, please do consider joining me at Binacrombi over the last weekend of this month where we can focus on your physical and spiritual fitness.
It’s an open question at the moment as to how long we’ll be able to keep these weekends going, so please don’t just put these invitations on the back-burner, assuming that you can always do it later. Even if you think your health can wait, Binacrombi may not. Hit me back or give me a call. I’ll set aside a cabin for you.
May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.
About Father Dave Smith
Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four