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The Sunday after Ascension

Fr. David Curry

AD 2000

“He sitteth on the right hand of the Father”


There is the religion of Jesus in the heart, the religion of sentiment and feeling.  There is, too, the religion of Jesus the moral policeman, the religion of outward conformity to the shifting demands of social and political correctness.  Neither of them is the religion of the risen and ascended Christ who “sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty”, which is what the Creeds say out of the Scriptures.  And without the risen and ascended Christ of the Scriptures creedally understood, they are altogether empty and destructive, the religion of empty hearts and whitened sepulchres.


It is what happens when we try to reduce God to where we are rather than to be lifted up to where he is.  Our lives are to be found in the comings and goings of God, not God in our comings and goings.  There is all the difference in the world between these two perspectives: the one would make God subject to us; the other would place us with God in the revelation of his truth and love.


Our beginnings and our endings find their place in the comings and goings of God.  Today is the Sunday after the Ascension.  We celebrate the Ascension and the Session of Jesus Christ to “sit at the right hand of the Father”.  There is in this a kind of ending, a sense of accomplishment and fullfilment.  All that pertains to our salvation has been accomplished.  “It is finished” and “Into thy hands I commend my spirit”.  These are the last two words of Christ from the cross.


In the Session, the risen and ascended Christ enters into the Father’s glory and so into the eternal rest of God.  “The end of all things is at hand”, says St. Paul, all rather calmly and not at all sensationally, I think.  The ending of all things is indeed celebrated in the Ascension and the Session of Christ.  From there we await a new beginning, the descent of the Holy Spirit to keep us in the love and knowledge of what has been accomplished by Christ Jesus for us and which remains to be realised in us.


The Son enters into his rest having accomplished “the will of him who sent him”.  He returns to glory and enters into glory.  What does it signify for us?  Only the meaning of our lives in prayer and praise; our lives in faith, hope and charity.


For Christ ascends and enters into the rest of God in the fullness of our humanity which he has assumed, restored and redeemed.  He bears the marks of the crucifixion.  They are now the prints of love.  Nothing of the past is lost or ignored.  All is gathered into glory.  Our humanity has a place with God.  We have an end in God.  The new beginning that we celebrate at Pentecost belongs to the accomplishment of the Son’s salvation for us. T he promised gift of the Holy Spirit would keep us in the knowledge and the love of God, come what may in the circumstances and accidents of our lives.  It is what has been communicated to us through the comings and goings of the Father’s Son and Word.


We have at once an orientation and a destination.  We have at once a direction and a place.  In prayer and praise, in Word and Sacrament, in sacrifice and service, we participate in the comings and goings of God for us and enter into the promise of his rest in glory.


Our lives are lived to God and with God.  The Ascension and the Session of Christ would remind us of this.  The Creeds say and the Scriptures say that Christ “sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty”.  It is the place, as one theologian once put it, that is “much to be preferred” and without which he cannot be in our hearts and certainly cannot be the ordering principle of our lives morally, socially and politically.  Only if we honour Christ in his Ascension and Session can we possibly know him, love him and serve him in our hearts and in our lives.


The Session – Christ’s sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty - recalls the sabbath rest of God after his six-day wonder in the work of creation.  In both the sabbath and the session, what is meant is the enjoyment, the taking delight, in what has been accomplished: in the one, taking delight in creation itself, for “behold, it was very good”; and in the other, taking delight in the restoration of the whole creation through the redemption of our humanity in the risen and ascended Christ.


There is this difference, however.  In the first, God takes delight in what he has made.  In the second, there is the greater delight in the mutual love of the Son for the Father in the Holy Spirit into which love everything else finds its perfection and end.  In the exaltation of the Son, there is the exaltation of our humanity.  We have a direction.  It is to God.  We have a home.  It is with God.


In the comings and goings of God, we find our purpose and our place - for our hearts and for all that our hearts contain.  We have only to live it, in prayer and praise.  In the lifting up of our hearts through him who has lifted up all things to the Father, we find our peace, our purpose and our place.  It is “at all times and in all places” that we offer our prayers and praises to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.  We live for God, with God and in God.


Such is the grace of Christ’s Ascension and his grace is unto glory where Christ “sitteth on the right hand of the Father”.