Ascension

T he Ascension

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, 
was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the  Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.  
-- Mark 16: 19-20


An image of the Ascension found in the  Syriac 
Rabbula Gospels usually dated to the 6th century
T o the Churches of New Mexico
 
B eloved, 
G race to you and Peace from our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
We are now dwelling deeply in the heart of Easter.  These are the weeks when we claim for ourselves and for the world the victory of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.                      
God raises up life over death.
God raises up love over fear. 
 
The World Needs Resurrection
As we approach the Feast of the Ascension, we recognize that our world today is in deep need of resurrection.  What the disciples did, as well as what they did not do, after witnessing the miracle of the ascension may be instructive to us.  They did not succumb to what likely were the temptations of the moment.  They did not stay and build an altar to the place.  They did not remain apart from the world, worshipping and awaiting Christ's return. Rather, they were so stirred, they "went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere".  And scripture tells us that they met with both welcome and resistance to their message.  How shall we follow their example in our time?
 
Resurrecting Relationship
One of the recurring themes that has emerged in the varied discussions and encounters I have had this past month is a concern about bridging divides that separate us from each other, and making new connections.  Many are asking questions about how to have civil and open discussions with people who hold a point of view that differs radically from their own.  The concern is for being in relationship with our own family members, members of our congregations, fellow students and co-workers.  And beyond that, there is great concern for the divisive political climate of our state and our nation, and who gets to sit at the influence tables of discussion and decision-making.
 
As people of faith, we want to reach out to others, yet we cling to our polite conversations. We remain in awkward silence rather than risk disagreement with others in our families, in our parishes and in our communities.  We tolerate subtle and not-so-subtle forms of bullying, unchecked, in our churches for fear of speaking out.
 
If we cannot speak honestly and openly with one-another in our families and congregations, how then will we go out and proclaim "the good news everywhere?"  How will we meet the present need for a functioning and participatory civil society or safe schools free of bullying for our children?
 
A Gospel Calling to Bridge Divides-sometimes with humor
We followers of the Lord Jesus Christ have a calling.  The gospels tell us that Jesus was always reaching out to those whose experience or perspective differed from his. Jesus sat at tables with haughty religious leaders, reviled tax collectors and humble fishermen. He taught women and men and called the little children to himself.  He spoke and he listened to them all. His model of compassionate listening, and his blend of humor with deeply insightful teachings and proclamation of the kingdom can help us in our time. As Episcopal priest and blogger The Rev. Tim Schenck reminds us:

"...Jesus uses humor to teach, heal, convert and, ultimately, redeem. And he does this while modeling the fact that laughter and profundity are not mutually exclusive. ...  A master storyteller would never forsake humor as a means to reach an audience.  Jesus, who spent much of his ministry breaking down barriers between people, knew that humor does exactly this. Humor disarms and unites; it sets people at ease and leaves them receptive to the speaker's message..."    The Rev. Tim Schenck, Blogger, Episcopal Priest 
Parish of  St. John the Evangelist, Hingham, MA
 
NM Assets for Connectional Conversations
We in NM live in a rich cultural diversity that may be an asset to us in learning to speak across boundaries and to bridge divisions.  We are one of the most multilingual states in the nation, and I believe that our daily practice of communicating with those of different languages and cultures can be a strong foundation for bridging other differences.
 
Faithful Bridging of Divides
Some of our churches in New Mexico are living into this challenge of our time: to cross barriers that divide us, and to be in relationship though meaningful conversation.  We celebrate all the efforts that are blooming in New Mexico including:
  • Conversations about Race:  The Southwest Conference of the UCC held a day-long anti-racism training in connection with their Annual Meeting in May; in April, the Presbytery of Santa Fe (PCUSA) hosted a training event titled, "Racism, Power, and Dominance in the US and in Faith Communities;" and the YWCA-NM contributed to the national Stand Against Racism campaign this year with a panel discussion on "Women of Color Leading Change."
  • Ecumenical Dialogue:  Albuquerque area ELCA clergy partnered with local Roman Catholic leaders in creating dialogue groups focused on theological issues of the Reformation.  More than 400 attended the two joint Roman Catholic-Lutheran prayer services in Albuquerque and Las Cruces.
  • Ecumenical Worship:  Many parishes held ecumenical services in connection with Holy Week.  One such gathering was in Las Vegas, where St. Paul's Peace Episcopal Church, First United Presbyterian Church (USA) and Las Vegas First United Methodist Church shared services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
These are the actions of people who are eager to follow Christ and engage with those who differ in experience or perspective. Let us all reject the temptations of the Ascension - the temptation to stop and build an altar or to huddle with our own kind awaiting Jesus' return.  Rather, let us be like those first disciples, energized to go out and proclaim "the good news everywhere."
 
Resources for Bridging Divides
Find more resources for difficult conversations from your church and these national organizations:
kaleidoscope Logo

The Rev. Canon Eric H.F. Law
Kaleidoscope Institute     800-366-1536
Building Bridges: facilitator training for
gracious dialogues on race and other issues of
our time.  840 Echo Park Ave, Los Angeles, CA  90026

On Being Conversation Project
Civil Conversations Project
A conversation- & values-based resource for  use at home and in community for those who would
move towards hospitable, trustworthy relationship  with and across difference.  1619 Hennepin Minneapolis, MN
~~~~~~~
Rev. Susan J. Quass, Executive Director NMCC


New Mexico Conference of Churches
1019 Second St, NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

 505-243-6234 | NMCC@NMChurches.org  | NMChurches.org