- Pastor A.J. Houseman
"Ascension: Where is Jesus? Mufasa, the Cosmos, and Esotericism" sermon by Pastor A.J. Houseman
Today we celebrate Jesus’ ascension (well really it was on Thursday). This ascension is his is joining back up with God.
We often see images of this that look like Jesus floating up above everyone going into the clouds. This is the language that is used in our first century Palestine account of Jesus’ life.
When I see these images, I think of Mufasa coming from a cloud to talk to Simba in the Lion King. “Remember who you are!” As a child of the 90s, my image of God is wrapped up with James Earl Jones' voice and Mufasa in the clouds.
Now thinking about God living in the clouds and Jesus ascending in an upwards direction towards God being in the clouds, may be for some of us the only way we have ever thought about God’s whereabouts.
To understand this idea more fully, we need to understand the world view of the writers living in Israel about 2,000 years ago.
It uses the language that we know of and hear in scriptures. God created a big dome and separated the waters from above from the waters from below. Inside the dome God separated the sea from the dry land.
In this world view the earth is flat. It’s a chunk of land in the middle of a sea in a dome. The fresh water above is where the rain comes from and the fresh water below is where it goes in the earth. Heaven is located above the dome, and sheol, which is the Hebrew version of what we equate to Hell in below the dry land portion of the earth. Sheol means to be cut off from God. They never thought of this place as a place of fire and torture but a place where you go and are literally permanently separated from God.
Now, other cultures outside of the people of Israel had different world views of how this whole thing is set up.
In Southern Africa, the ancient peoples there believed that God’s residence was inside the Earth. That is why when you die you would be buried, to return to God that’s in the Earth. God is not floating in the sky, but rather God’s residence in the Earth gives it the great growing power. Makes sense to me!
In the 21st century, we often get stuck in this uncomfortable space where our histories and traditions tell us where God is located and our modern day technology and science, discovery and explorations that have taught us that the world looks like this great blue ball floating in space, accompanied by other planets and circling a giant star so bright that it heats our planet.
So when you look at a picture of earth taken from a satellite orbiting the Earth…. Where is God’s home? You could deny science all together… that is one approach. There is not a lot of logic in that choice to me.
Well, another way to look at it is through the lens of Esotericism. This field of study is about the planes of existence. That there are several planes that exist simultaneously. The most common planes that are agreed on are 7: the physical plane (what we can see, feel and touch), astral plane, metal plane, buddhic plane, divine plane, spiritual plane, logoic plane, and the monadic plane.
And maybe these Heaven and Hell places, or wherever it is that God resides is in one of these planes of existence.
Now, I do not know what all of these are and their concepts. I am not a great mystic or philosopher and I mostly only understand the physical plane stuff.
I do not presume to know if there is some place somewhere that God has an address and that Jesus was going to move in.
I read this week that maybe a better way to talk about this movement of Jesus isn’t ascension, but rather a re-assimilation of Jesus to God.
The beginning of the Gospel of John says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Jesus was with God in the very beginning. We proclaim in our creeds, specifically the Nicene creed that Jesus is of the same substance as the Father. That's where we say, “begotten”. The Latin is Homoosious, meaning of the same substance.
I like to think of it as like a ball of some sort of liquid or flubber where a drop of it goes down to earth, then on this day of Re-assimilation, the drop is once again a part of the big ball.
This may all sound crazy and sciency. For some of you, maybe you have thought about this a lot. And some of you, maybe never. The Bible says, Jesus goes up so Jesus went up.
I share this with you in hopes that you can engage critically about faith and life. About what we can learn from the scriptures and how these scriptures can engage with 21st century thought. Both Lutheran and Episcopal traditions invite us to ask questions. To engage with scripture critically and use our faith to guide our truths.
And here’s the thing for me, what I have concluded for my own faith: that whether God lives in the sky, or the earth, or a divine plane, and whether Jesus is in God or sitting next to God really doesn’t matter to me.
It doesn’t really matter to me because it doesn’t change my relationship or experience of God working and moving in this place and time.
Jesus came into this world so God could enter our world as flesh. To see what we see, to feel what we feel. He came to give us a new way to be in relationship with God, through Jesus. TO share with us love and grace and mercy. To give us a glimpse into the divine.
At the end of the book of Matthew, as Jesus sets sail to go back to God, he leaves the disciples with these final words. “I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Christ’s presence in our world is seen through love and mercy we share with each other. Christ charged us to be his hands and feet in this world. To spread this love with one another that he spent his life sharing and ultimately gave his life for.
If you haven’t heard me say it 10,000 times yet, you will. My favorite quote from St. Francis and words I live my life by are “Preach the gospel at all times, and only when necessary use words.” Preach the gospel at all times, that is, share the good news. The good news of the love promise we received from God through Jesus. Share this without words.
It is by our actions that those around us can see the breath of Christ within us.
I do not know much about cosmology but I do know that Christ is here. Christ is in me, and Christ is in each of your faces as well.
This is what Jesus is trying to get the disciples to understand: my body is leaving, but I am always with you, In you, encouraging you and loving you from the inside out. Now go, and do likewise. Amen.