By Betsy P.
“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
When I listened to this week’s sermon on Ascension Sunday, I was getting serious Peter Pan vibes. David’s homily on the Ascension was solid. It stands alone as a beacon of light for us to see more clearly what Christ’s Ascension means for us. It speaks for itself; my reflections are just little twinkles around that light. A little pixie dust of fun.
When I think about Jesus’s Ascension into heaven, the questions fall like dominos, one activates another. Admittedly these questions aren’t very theological. They’re practical: how did this actually go down? Scripture says he was “taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). What do you mean “taken up”? Who took him? Was it the Holy Spirit. Is this some kind of Holy Spirit conveyor belt, or a Star Trek “beam me up” scenario. Did the Holy Spirit form a bridge from this physical world to the Celestial City like the rainbow bridge from Earth to Asgard, the realm of the gods in Thor? I really want to know how this worked.
David assured us that it was no awkward elevator ride, and I liked that. He also mentioned how the cloud that came and hid Christ from the disciples’ view may have been like the clouds that contained God’s glory in the Old Testament. That’s epic. So did this glory cloud cover Christ and absorb (what a word to use here) him into heaven? Did Jesus just “go poof” in the cloud and then appear in heaven?
Or did he keep going up until he’d have been a little speck in the sky to the disciples if the cloud wasn’t blocking their view. How far did he go. Did he keep flying through space, passing Saturn and Neptune, then traveling through the neighboring galaxies— “second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning” kind of deal. DID HE REACH THE END OF THE UNIVERSE. What was going on with gravity? Did God push the pause button on that natural law only under Jesus’s feet? What did Jesus do with his arms when he started floating up? Was he waving bye to everyone? No, probably not.
This has me thinking about what I would do with my hands if I get to be one of the ones to meet him in the sky at the second coming. If we are meeting him in the sky I translate that to “we’re flying fam.” When I start floating up, will I be tempted to flap my arms to give myself an extra boost? Will I strike the superman pose, one fist on my hip the other extended above my head? Yes, probably so.
I know a lot of these questions are outlandish, but my mind doesn’t raise them in doubt. I believe God is capable of anything. A God who just raised Jesus’s crucified body to imperishable, glorified life can lift his Son into the clouds or send him soaring through the universe.
David made an interesting observation at the beginning of his sermon: we don’t really focus on the Ascension as much as other parts of the Gospel narrative. Why is that? Part of me wonders if it’s too “out there” as a notion. It overtly offends our reason and our science. The Ascension of Christ demands childlike faith. It involves believing that someone can fly. It’s just this sort of faith Jesus said we need in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s that childlike wonder we recognize in stories like Peter Pan.
Before the service I was reading the novel The Awakening of Miss Prim where a child explains the Gospel as the only fairy tale that’s true (in true Tolkien fashion): “The Redemption is nothing like a fairy tale, Miss Prim. Fairy tales and ancient legends are like the Redemption. Haven’t you ever noticed? It’s like when you copy a tree from the garden on a piece of paper. The tree from the garden doesn’t look like the drawing, does it? It’s the drawing that’s a bit, just a little bit, like the real tree.”
Thinking about the Ascension has made me realize how Peter Pan portrays a dim (wonderful) “drawing” of the Gospel story…
Peter Pan: leader of the lost boys (his little disciples of sorts). Peter recruits his Neverland crew— Jesus loves us and chooses us. Peter never grows old—Jesus defies death for us. How do the children get to Neverland? They follow Peter and fly. Jesus prepares a place for us so that he can take us to be where he is forever. For some of the family of God, that’s going to include meeting him in the sky.
When we believe in Christ, think the “happy thoughts” of heaven (setting our minds on things above, Col. 3:2), we remain youthful and our “inner selves” are renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). In the faith, we don’t grow up in a way where we lose our childlike wonder. We believe in a miraculous God, and we go from glory to glory being transformed into Christ’s likeness (2 Cor. 3:18); our path shines brighter and brighter until the full light of day (Prov. 4:18).
The Ascension doesn’t involve pixie dust and wishful thinking of course, but it does involve faith. In all my ponderings about what took place in the Ascension, the point that David made is clear. Although it’s fun to think about, it’s not so much how Jesus got there, but where he ended up. The destination was the right hand of God. Christ is sitting on the throne. This is where our eyes remain fixed. This is also our destination, our Neverland. Except none of us will be like an orphan. Jesus is taking us to the Father.
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:6)
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1