The preacher faces several challenges in these Ascension texts. How can we present Jesus’ departure from the earth as an occasion for not sorrow but celebration? How to translate the kingship and hierarchical language into imagery that speaks to a world no longer governed by kings and monarchs?
Feminist biblical scholars note a third challenge: How can we counter Luke-Acts' use of the Ascension to exert a degree of social control?
It’s just after 6 a.m. when I pull into the church parking lot. It’s still dark, and the steady rain makes me glad we decided to hold the sunrise service inside. I’m balancing a vase of daffodils for the communion table between my knees, and I’m hoping my good brown shoes are under the desk in my office, because they weren’t under my bed at home.
Each of the four Gospels’ depictions of the first encounter with the resurrected Christ suggests a different lens for perceiving the risen one. In Matthew, Christ’s resurrection looks like a theophany—earthquake and blazing light—and Christ appears suddenly and vividly to disciples on the run and on the mountain. In Luke, the risen Christ is first encountered as a peripatetic teacher and finally recognized in the breaking of bread. Mark apparently included no straightforward account of the risen Christ at all.
And in the Gospel of John, Christ rises from the ground in a springtime garden.