Mystery and Ministry
Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10,33-36; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11
Mary Cousparis died last week and her funeral was held this past Wednesday. Her daughter, Renee, gave a splendid homily and I asked her to preach today but she declined. In my remarks at the funeral, I made a connection between the Greek Orthodox Church's emphasis on mystery and the same emphasis in the Episcopal Church. For both churches, mystery is not the same as hocus-pocus magic or miracles, nor is mystery something made-up or untrue. Mystery is simply something that you may not understand now but will be revealed to you later.
With mystery still rattling in my head, I began to confront this week's story of the ascension of Jesus. There are some scholars who claim the ascension story was bolted onto the Bible much later and was not part of the early Christian tradition at all. Other wags on the Internet claim that the magical nature of a human being floating up to heaven in a cloud is all the proof they need to invalidate all of Christian belief.
To be fair, many miracle stories don't seem to bother me like this one. The resurrection, raising of Lazarus, feeding the 5,000, walking on water, healing stories and others I can accept in some form, but the ascension just seems to defy gravity. It raises a more general question about faith - Is it necessary for us to accept any or all the stories in order for us to have faith? Do we really need magical miracles to inspire us and enable us to make a difference in the lives of others?
You may recall a real-life ascension story in the 1982 event where Larry Walters in North Hollywood California tied Helium weather balloons to a lawn chair that climbed over 1,000 feet per minute to 16,000 feet. Terrified, numb and cold, the 33 year old Walters shot a few of the balloons to begin his descent before he dropped his pellet gun. TWA and Delta pilots reported to a very busy LAX tower that they observed ''a ...
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