Unfold Chapter 4: Flawed but Empowered

Unfold Chapter 4: Flawed but Empowered

By Rev. Phil Dieke

Chapter 3 of our Unfold series kicked off with Easter. Similarly, Chapter 4 kicked off with Ascension Sunday, a lesser-known yet also important church holiday in and of itself. What do we “celebrate” on this holiday? Well, the ascension of Christ, of course. Simple enough, right? Sure, but what is the significance?

Ascension Sunday is the Sunday immediately following the Feast of Ascension, traditionally celebrated 40 days after Easter. While there are a variety of Gospel texts that reference the ascension of Christ, the Gospel of John elaborates the most, referencing it multiple times in multiple chapters. Matthew fails to give a specific ascension account. The more extended ending of Mark gives a very paraphrased version, though many scholars believe it was added much later. And finally, the author of Luke/Acts gives two similar accounts, one in Luke 24 and the other in Acts 1.

The ascension of Christ has had a complicated relationship with those who claim a progressive version of Christianity (in other words, those who read the Bible literarily rather than literally). Did Jesus actually ascend from Earth to be seated at the right hand of God the Father? Sure, you can go to a church in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, and find a rock that looks to have the foot imprint of where Jesus pushed off to ascend (we can talk about the various churches in the Holy Land and the mythologies that come with them at another time) but did that happen? If you or I were standing there nearly 2,000 years ago with a modern-day video camera, would we have been able to record this experience? I have no idea (how’s that for an answer?). As somebody who does read the Bible literarily, I believe there is something deeper going on here.  
Even if Jesus did ascend, as the Gospels say (though they don’t entirely agree on the specifics), what does this ascension mean for us as Christ-followers some 2,000 years later?
In some ways, the ascension of Christ is a bridging narrative, a transition from the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ to the emerging ministry of his disciples. It is an excellent story of the emotional roller coaster that comes with change. The life and ministry of Jesus brought hope not only to the disciples but also to many throughout the region. Then, his death created great despair. The resurrection of Jesus created confusion yet elation. And now, once again, the departure of Jesus indeed brought trepidation, joy, and a healthy dose of fear.

But what does the ascension narrative of Jesus have to teach us in the here and now? Life is full of transitions. With change comes all sorts of emotions, some good and some bad. Amid all the change are moments pregnant with potential. We can’t always control how situations will play out, but we can control how we respond to those situations. Jesus’s response to the ascension is to bless his disciples, bless them and empower them to continue the ministry (and revolution) he had begun. And the disciples' response? According to Luke 24, they respond with “great joy.”

Even amid loss, there is great joy in being empowered to continue. To continue the work, the mission, the journey. As we continue our journey through this unfolding narrative, what emotions are you experiencing? Are you empowering others to continue? Are you feeling empowered to emerge as a leader?

You may feel flawed and even unequipped for what God calls you to. This chapter reminds us that even in our flaws, you are empowered by God. You are loved, accepted, and called. And, never forget, you are not alone in this journey. God is with you. This community is with you as well.

Flawed, but empowered… may it be so.

Posted in ,
Tagged with

No Comments