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?
As I mentioned before, I’ve been reading this strange book called The Spiritual Meadow, written by sixth-century wandering monk John Moschos. One of the last stories in the book was as relevant to my daily existence as any story I have read in a long time. I have only the vaguest idea what it means, but I do know it’s another weird monk joke. And this one was aimed directly at me.
The story goes like this: In the ancient city of Antioch, the church had various kinds of social services. “A man who was a friend of Christ” used to gather supplies and give them out to people in need.
While my home church sang praises to King Jesus and also ran a food pantry, the Feast of the Reign of Christ boldly proclaims that the hungry won't be hungry forever. While others in the '60s juxtaposed sweet harmonies with earnestly social lyrics, Dylan conjured a complex vision of social upheaval—a vision both threatening and profoundly hopeful.