The Rev’d Ann Broomell
Christ Church, New Haven
May 5, 2016
Feast of the Ascension
Seeing With The Heart
There is a Victorian-era church in England, where, in the midst of billowing clouds painted on the flat surface of the ceiling, plaster feet meant to be those of Jesus visibly hang down. Today we smile at the image. The possibility that Jesus moved vertically into the sky, to be seated at the right hand of God, isn’t made more real by our exploration of outer space. The image has moved from belief to metaphor, or, perhaps, was always meant to be metaphor.
However originally understood, a time surely came in the lives of his disciples that they no longer felt that he was visibly among them. Yet they came to recognize the presence of Jesus in love that enfolded them, in the depth of peace in being forgiven, in new power, new energy and strength. It is this transition that we celebrate today.
They moved from sitting at his feet and soaking up his words to teaching others what they had heard. They who had known healing laid their hands on others who suffered. You and I are no different. This transition, between being taught and being teacher, being sinful and teaching others to forgive, is the path each of us walks as Christians, as ministers of Jesus Christ--being awed by what Christ does through us, and knowing we continue to be broken and sinful as well. Our lives stretch behind and before us and we ask Christ to be in the midst of it all.
In his small book, Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery names well the words just read from the letter to the Ephesians. We hear:‘Good-bye’ said the fox. ‘And now here’s my secret, a very simple secret: it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.’ (1) And later: ‘People where you live’, the little prince said, ‘grow five thousand roses in one garden…yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…’ ‘They don’t find it,’ I answered. ‘And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water.’ ‘Of course,’ I answered. And the little prince added, ‘But eyes are blind, you have to look with the heart. (2)
Today we are with the disciples as they see Jesus ascend—disappear from their reality into a new reality. He was gone yet paradoxically he was becoming more fully in the midst of their lives. He couldn’t be touched, or seen. He was no longer a person, living, dead, or resurrected. He had to leave direct contact for us to know him in the extraordinary ways we know him today.
He was gone from their sight, yet more present. No longer seen with eyes, only experienced with the heart. Outside of the height and width and length of our lives, outside of our careful planning, yet more fully in the midst of it all. Today, Jesus is closer than he might be if he were human, walking once again on the earth. Christ is in our hearts, joining us to each other, joining us to God and that’s truly worthy of joy and thanksgiving, worthy of quite a celebration.
(1) de Saint-Exupery, Antoine. The Little Prince. Penguin, 1962, p. 84.
(2) Ibid. p. 91-2.