Have you ever wondered what shoe size Jesus had?
Well, this question has never been on my top ten list, but in case it was one of your questions, you should pay a visit to the Mt. of Olives.
There, in the so called Imbomon, the Chapel of the Ascension, you would find the right foot print of Jesus imprinted into the sand just before his Ascension – tradition tells us. Originally from the 4th century, this chapel has gone through a number of destructions, re-buildings and changes in religion. The current shrine around the footprint is a left-over from the crusaders and now under Muslim administration.
Jesus’ footprint… Wow… Only the right one is there, so I always imagined Jesus kicking off the ground like superman but later found out that the left footprint had been taken to Al-Aqsa Mosque; so, Jesus left the earth with both feet on the ground.
It must have been a scary moment for the disciples: the risen Christ, God’s presence among them, ascended into heaven in front of their eyes, leaving the promise to send the Holy Spirit as God’s continuing presence on earth. But that would not happen for a couple of days.
What did the disciples do?
They were joyful. We hear in Acts and in the Gospel of Luke, they went back to the city joyfully, continued to pray and even elected a new member, Matthias, to replace the late Judas Iscariot.
In a time when they should have been in extreme distress because the political leaders were against them, persecuted them, had killed their leader, who then reappeared just to leave them again – they would have had every reason to be in great distress – and what did they do? The disciples built for the future. They elected a new member for their leadership, they continued to pray, they remained joyful and continued to take care of each other and use their energy to even grow the ministry of Jesus among the poor and the sick.
I hear a strong message for us. I believe the Church is called to make brave steps now, use the opportunity and believe in a future.
This particular ship, Christ Church Cathedral, has chosen a new leader who will come on board June first. I am excited to see where this new beginning will bring us with the Blessing of God’s promise to send the Holy Spirit.
If we follow our story line strictly, there would have been a god-less time on earth between the Ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The way the Bible speaks of it, Christ – and in him the presence of God – leaves the earth, ascends into heaven to be seated on the right hand of God, and the Holy Spirit descends from heaven days later.
But whether the story of Christ’s Ascension wants to be taken that literally and whether God was really absent from earth in that time… I wonder…
The image of God on a throne and Christ on another throne next to God…
Even though I, personally, have a very figurative image of heaven and I believe the unity of God’s and Christ’s reign which this image symbolizes, still, this smells a bit too much of the old man with a beard.
This image has been taken so literally in our history, that, in discussions about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, some theologians argued against a ‘real presence’ in the Eucharist, because, they believed that Christ couldn’t be in heaven and in the celebration of the Eucharist simultaneously.
I’m not sure this imagery which Ascension Day promotes, with a strict division between the earthly realm down here and the heavenly up there, in between which even God can’t freely move, serves us anymore.
What does serve and help me a lot, is the promise Christ gave his disciples before his Ascension; the promise of the Holy Spirit to come on the disciples, the Spirit of Hope that helps them to remain hopeful and to act faithfully. What helps me this Ascension Sunday is the promise of Jesus that even in times when he feels physically distant to us like he did to the disciples after the Ascension, he is still with us, he is still part of our bubble. And that is the experience of the disciples that even when the encounters with the risen Christ stopped forty days after Easter, the presence of God among them continued and they felt it, so real, so true.
On Ascension Day, we receive the promise that the Holy Spirit will be with us and that in Her power, we will do our duty, live in faith and trust as disciples, do brave steps believing in a future and proclaim – as it says in Luke – “repentance and forgiveness of sins […] in Christ’s name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24:47).
And today, on Jerusalem Sunday, we do not only remember the holy sites where Jesus left more than his footprints, no, today we hold our siblings from the Anglican Diocese in Jerusalem and the Middle East in our prayers; especially Archbishop Suheil and the newly elected Bishop Hosam.
May we all together, as one Christian family, continue our mission in Christ’s name in the power of the Holy Spirit.