Another week and another terrorist attack. This latest one being a bomb exploded at a concert intended for young people.
The intention was to cause maximum harm to quite vulnerable children including an 8 year old there with her mother and sister to watch the concert. Over 20 dead and many more injured. The following day thousands gathered for a vigil to honour and show support for those affected. We keep hearing from our leaders that we are winning the war against terror but that is not what it looks like.
Today we celebrate the Ascension – the day that Jesus ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God with all power and authority. But, again, that’s not what it looks like. With God, sometimes things are not what they look like.
Jesus’ birth did not look like the birth of a King. Jesus ministry did not look like the promised Messiah as he ate and drank with sinners. Jesus’ death looked nothing like a victory. And today, Jesus’ ascension looks anything but a position of power and authority. The Church today looks anything but a thriving body of Christ, but that is what it is. It’s just that God doesn’t act the way the world portrays power and authority.
The world uses military might to show its power and authority, like North Korea that has to constantly parade its bombs and army down the street to keep reassuring its people. The world uses its economic power to show its power and authority.
We too use physical things as signs of power and authority – our wealth, our careers, our possessions our investment portfolios. But God chose differently. God has chosen weakness to shame the powerful. God has chosen foolishness to shame the wise. God has chosen the things that are not to shame the things that are. And as we begin to understand that framework we begin to understand that Jesus ascension fits in with that framework.
How is Jesus ruling?
He is ruling in a way the world does not understand. Firstly by commanding us to respond with love and forgiveness rather than by fear or retaliation. Jesus says “Let not your hearts be troubled – trust in God, trust also in me.
In a world that is gripped in fear over terrorism, crime, environmental issues and a whole host of other things,
But our response is not with fear as Jesus says in Luke 12: Have no fear little flock for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom. So Jesus power and authority is shown by his assurance that we have nothing to fear. Even to the church he gives that assurance that even though our numbers are dwindling he assures us that not even the gates of hell shall prevail over the church. But at this time Jesus power and authority are hidden behind the sin in the world. Hidden, not absent. And as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, your kingdom come, that is when Christ’s power and authority will be revealed.
But it’s not a power and authority only in the future but it is now, hidden, as St Paul says to the Colossians: Set your minds on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God – for your life is now hidden in Christ, but when Christ appears then you also will appear with him in glory.
We are not to be downhearted when we see things in the world but remember that Jesus has ascended and is ruling and that he has already won the victory. And we wait, as Jesus told his disciples – wait until you have been clothed with power from on high. It’s hard waiting when it seems like nothing is happening. And as Christians it can be particularly hard as we look around the world and don’t see anything to indicate that God is in control. But we are reminded that God is in control and we are to have faith.
In the book of Revelation it says: Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “ I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” So while it may be hard waiting we know that when that day arrives that it will be so glorious. So until then we are to pray for those who do not yet know Jesus as their Lord so that when he does return they will not mourn his coming but along with us shout and rejoice.
So until that day when our ascended Lord returns may the peace of God that surpasses our understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.