Our reformer ancestors would be appalled by some of the small traditions of joy and triumph that have crept into the Christian celebration of Pentecost. We’ve added trumpet blasts to mimic the great sound of the wind of the spirit, we wave red streamers on bamboo rods, raise clouds of red and white balloons, and even nibble on birthday cakes for the church. We want to signal “Tada!” We made it!
As long as the ascension is in any way related to upward movement (like an elevator going to the clouds), I am and will continue to be unmoved. The vertical directional imagery just doesn’t do it for me. I am not even moved to argue about whether or not “it” happened.
When I read this passage, I’d like to hear the inflection that Jesus gave to these words. “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?” The inflection of the words makes a considerable impact on the meaning of the reading as heard, and would tell us much about Jesus’ reaction to the healing of the lepers.
What the widow in the Luke parable wants from the judge is vengeance or vindication. True, some have translated the original into something more polite such as “give the verdict to my side” or “give me justice.” Well, it is true the widow wanted justice done, and to her benefit. But it seems she wanted more.
Jesus is reported to have said, “The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force” (Luke 16:16).
In Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus there is no wiggle room. Deeds are done and lives led, and there are consequences for each of the three characters—the rich man, Lazarus and Father Abraham. No matter what each of them wishes, desires or hopes, the matter is finished.