Midweek Faith Lift
September 16, 2020
The Ascension-Station 15
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
Good Morning it is good to be back home! It was a wonderful time away and I truly feel refreshed. Todd and I really enjoyed our “tour of Minnesota” with travels to the hinterlands seeing lots of lakes other than Superior. Minnesota is like a huge slice of Swiss cheese with all the holes full of water; 13,000 some lakes is a lot of water and mosquitoes! Talk about being in the midst of a human experience. Mosquitoes made it quite clear that I was fully human. Even as I claimed my Divine nature they were feasting on my arms and legs etc. It was an interesting journey with some moments of really uncomfortable self-awareness that fit well with Station 15 of the Cosmic Christ, the station of the Ascension, but more about that later.
This idea of the Ascension of Christ into heaven is not an event we typically visit or talk about in Unity. It is a focal point in other Christian liturgy and it is celebrated on “Ascension” Sunday to commemorate Jesus “rising up into heaven” to reign over all forever. What in the world are we talking about when we talk about “the Ascension?” There are two references to this event, one in the Book of Acts, which describes the event and one in Ephesians referring to the event. First the description:
The Ascension of Jesus
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 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.” (NRSV)
Ok, this is a lot, so let’s unpack it. We know this is a cosmic event because the “heavens open” as Jesus ascends. The disciples are asking the “Risen Christ” if he is going to restore the earthly power to Israel and once again, Jesus has to tell them, no, that is not what this is about. It is not for them to even know this. He tells them the Holy Spirit will come over them to empower them. It is then that they will be able to bear witness to what he has taught them in Judea and Samaria. That is a powerful statement, which we want to fully grasp. To speak of the message of Jesus, of love and forgiveness in Judea is to be among friends and what is familiar and accepting. To do the same in Samaria is to be a witness to the message of Jesus among perceived enemies, foreigners, those unlike you, those who might wish to destroy you.
We are charged to do both in this passage. We are told in this passage that even when the Christ presence is no longer visible to our physical senses, it is always there, always. And the energy of the Christ is present to us in the same way….when we lift our consciousness to that higher place, that larger perspective, we will experience the power and presence of the Risen Christ that we spoke of in Station 14. We have cultivated the capacity to be present to all that is without being overwhelmed by it as part of the Resurrection experience, now we will bear witness to it. That is much easier said than done!
Now what about the second message in Ephesians? Later, this story shows up again in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (NRSV)
This passage in Ephesians is a call to action, to open our hearts and to put this reality of the “spirit of wisdom” to work in our daily lives. We are to go forth and create the beloved community no matter what the challenges. It is then we will know “the riches of his glorious inheritance” and understand the expansion of spiritual power, not earthly power. This passage also says that the power and presence of the Christ, of Love is far above all earthly power and dominion in this age and in all ages to come. It is another way of saying “there is only one Presence and One Power in the Universe, God the Good, Omnipotence.
So let’s all breathe as we focus on and remember that….that God, or Love is all Power, all the Power there is. It is one thing to do that here, in a spiritual service on a Sunday morning. But we are charged to do that in all places and in all times. This place, this spiritual community, is our Judea, our familiar place where we practice the power and presence of Love. We learn to show up with each other from a loving consciousness, in our human selves and experiences, we find our Divinity, our Christ nature, ….that which is our essential goodness and we express and live it. Even when we get irritated and annoyed with each other, we practice what Jesus taught about love and forgiveness.
Let us pause a moment and reflect on what this Ascension experience is really all about. With respect to our earth, a globe, there is no “up or down” there is only in and out. You come into the pull of gravity, of the earth, of Love, or you go out from it. As the late Buckminster Fuller stated, “ anyone still using the words “up and down” is 400 years out of date.” The Universe is curved and pilots fly “in and out” not up and down. The energy of Ascension is not up, it is outward, it is an expansion of the Christ energy, and we are called to that process of expansion of the Christ energy, the energy of love and forgiveness.
Let us pause again to reflect that it was the risen Christ, the crucified Christ with physical evidence of wounds that ascends. Ascension does not mean that we rise above our humanness, our physicality, or very real limited human consciousness. As Bishop Marc Andrus says on page 144 of Sixteen Stations of the Cosmic Christ:
“It may strike you as odd when you meet the Archetype of the Ascension of Christ to learn that this rising into the Cosmos is a validation of all that is created, rather than a good-bye to it all. There are stories of the spiritual path that envision a leaving behind of this complicated unreliable thing-the physical, our bodies and all the world with which they are connected—but these narratives are not those of Christianity.
Well, that is good news, because I had an Ascension experience on our recent tour of Minnesota. As I mentioned, we drove deep into the countryside, the hinterlands of rural Minnesota, which was plastered with Trump signs everywhere. I was ok with that until I saw a number of them, which said, “Destroy all the liberals!” That became personal and very uncomfortable. Rather than cultivate a Christ consciousness about all this, it was far more real to go to a place of fear. And my body responded with stomach acid and gut churning fear. I am not kidding, this felt very real to me.
I began to wonder, as we drove through 200+ miles of this whether anyone would help us if we had car trouble on this journey. I have a Unity bumper sticker and the Equal sign from the LGBTQ Human Rights campaign. Would that matter? Or would I be destroyed? When we had to stop for gas or to use the restroom, I got in and out very fast before I could be “discovered” as the enemy. Fear is a strong emotion and I was hijacked! Todd assured me we were just fine, but fear is a very strong emotion and I needed an Ascension experience, for sure!
And it came in the form of recognition of all that I felt in the postings I was reading on Facebook. I was posting photos of our trip and places of beauty we visited and then also reading lots of postings of fear. I finally had to make a statement about my own fear and what to do to rise above it, to literally have an ascension experience. I had not felt that kind of fear in many years, and it was concerning to be in that place again due to political yard signs of all things. I had to first realize that due to the masks, mandatory in Minnesota, we are not seeing one another’s faces and smiling at each other. That contributes to the “dehumanizing” effect! Then I had to remember what I know is true: Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.
Breathe and pray, Deb! There is no one here who is going to hurt you, no real threat, so breathe and pray. Let your consciousness ascend to that place of Christ Consciousness that is the Cosmic Energy of Ascension. It is the place that loves and accepts us with all our human fears, hurts and hate. We as humans are capable of choosing hate and fear or love and forgiveness. If I choose hate and fear, it is truly a dead end, so my choice is love and forgiveness. And that love and forgiveness extends to myself and all of Creation, no exception. As we are charged to go forth into Judea and Samaria, we are connected to that Christ energy that moves us from fear to faith, from anger and hatred to love and forgiveness. So be it!
Blessings on the Path,