Monday, 2 June 2014

Ascension Sunday

At the top of the playlist in our house this week is Sara McLachan’s song “Ordinary Miracle.” It all started last week at Carrie’s Dance recital when it was used as one of the songs for a group to dance to. Since then Scott’s been singing and we’ve been playing it in the car to and from school. They lyrics are beautiful.  
“It's not that unusual
When everything is beautiful
It's just another ordinary miracle today
The sky knows when it's time to snow
Don't need to teach a seed to grow
It's just another ordinary miracle today
Life is like a gift they say
Wrapped up for you everyday
Open up and find a way
To give some of your own.

… Do you want to see a miracle?
It seems so exceptional
The things just work out after all
It's just another ordinary miracle today
Sun comes up and shines so bright
And disappears again at night
It's just another ordinary miracle today”
The songs has me thinking about those ordinary miracles. Those things that we take for granted like sunshine sparkling on the water, or icebergs, or flowers pushing their way up through the ground or how a friend calls at just the right time. The list could go on and on. They are so ordinary that we forget how amazing and beautiful and miraculous these things really are.  
It takes practice to take note of the miraculous things that happen right before our eyes. Watching for miracles is a like a muscle that needs to be worked out. And, if you can’t spot the ordinary day to day miracles, how are you going to be able to notice the big ones? Jesus knew that. He used ordinary things like yeast, and sheep and lost coins or bread and wine to remind us of God’s love for us and to teach us how God is at work in the world. Because while God does come into our lives in powerful ways it is not our everyday experience of God. Daily God is in the ordinary events of living, dying, working, loving, sorrow, praying, eating, growing, learning. 
In our scripture reading, the disciples were trying to get back to their ordinary lives. But how could they after everything that happened? The disciples are still reeling from the events of the past few days. The big parade with palm branches waving, the trial, the horror of crucifixion, death and now the news of Jesus’ resurrection. It was the women who first shared the news. Then Cleopas came back from a walk to Emmaus with the news that he’d seen Jesus. 
As the disciples and others were gathered in a room trying get used to this new normal Jesus comes and stands among them and says, “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36) Everyone in the room is terrified – as you can imagine. Jesus shows them is wounds and gives them one last promise, “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
Then Jesus leads them to another place, he blesses them and while he is blessing them is carried up into heaven. It is hard to explain what happened that day. But it left a mark on the disciples because they went to Jerusalem with joy and were in the temple day and night praising God. It leaves a mark still today as over two thousand years later people both Muslim and Christians gather at the mosque of the Ascension, built to mark the place where Jesus ascended to heaven, to worship. It is a holy place. 
To understand why the ascension is such a holy moment you need to know more about the Gospel of Luke. It was written around the year 70 after the Romans destroyed temple in Jerusalem. The beautiful temple, the holy place where generations of people had been meeting God was in ruins. It was devastating for the people of Israel. Richard Swanson writes: “Luke stands in the ruins of the Temple and reclaims the old hope of real transformation. This hope goes back to Isaiah and the Exile, goes back also to Ezekiel standing in the valley of dry bones. In Ezekiel, the prophet stands in a valley full of the bones of Jews killed by Gentiles and receives a promise of a rebirth of hope that had been clean cut off. Luke stands in the midst of a similar scene of slaughter. Luke promises a raising and re-gathering of all of God’s Creation, even from among the enemy who brought destruction to the Jewish center of the world. This is real audacity. It will require metanoia, that basic change of heart that changes everything.” ( 
It is a bold message – life changing and transformative. It is a reminder to us today who look at the changes in the world and in our churches and lament. The church is not what it was 20, 30, 50 or 100 years ago but the message of hope proclaimed by Jesus has not changed.  We have a promise to cling to that changes hearts and changes lives. God will not leave us. We may need to find new ways of being God’s people in the world. But, and this important God is not finished with us yet. There is more for us to be and do in the world as a people of faith.
In this in between time – between what was and what will be, it is our calling, to share the good news of Jesus, to ensure that all God’s people are cared for and to look for that promise in the ordinary miracles of life. There is no better place to be reminded of that then as we gather at God’s table, surrounded by the gifts of bread and wine. In the ordinary gifts of bread and wine we are reminded of God’s abiding presence in our lives and sustained for the journey ahead.  God is not finished us yet. Thanks be to God. Amen.  

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