Pastor’s Letter, May 8, 2024

Dear Friends in Christ,

Next Sunday we celebrate this Thursday’s Ascension Day, the 40th day after Easter, (Recall any other associations with the number 40?).  It’s an intriguing day when we remember that the once upon-a-time earthbound Jesus returns to heaven.  Luke reports that “while he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:5).  Later, in the first chapter of Acts (verse 9), he offers another image: “as they were watching, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”  As a kid, I had my own version.  I imagine Jesus as like an Estes model rocket blasting-off and zooming upward into the sky!  

Taken literally this story seems unlikely history and more likely fantasy.  That’s why I now understand it metaphorically.  And, I’m in very good company.  Of Jesus’ Ascension, Christian scholar, and great teacher, Professor Marcus Borg wrote of Ascension Day in a blog almost 20 years ago:

          For Christians  past and now, it meant and means that Jesus is now with God, indeed “at God’s right hand” and “one with God.”  These affirmations have two primary dimensions of meaning.  Like the traditions of ancient  Israel and Judaism, they are religious and political, spiritual and social. First, Ascension Day proclaims the lordship of Christ. To say that the risen and ascended Jesus is “at God’s right hand,” a position of honor and authority, means “Jesus is Lord.”  In the first century, when kings and emperors claimed to be lords, this claim had not only religious but also political meaning.  To say “Jesus is Lord” meant, and means, that the Herods and Caesars of this world were not, and are not God.

          Second, because the risen and ascended Jesus is “one with God,” he (like God) can be experienced anywhere. Jesus is no longer restricted or confined to time and space, as he was during his historical lifetime. Rather, like the God whom he knew in his own experience, he continues to be known in the experience of his followers.

          To use language from Matthew’s Gospel, for Christians the risen and ascended Christ is Immanuel: “God with us.” (For Borg’s entire reflection, see:

Now, I find in Borg’s expression an ongoing miracle of God more believable, more meaningful, more inspiring and more powerful than any magic moment of literal understanding.  But… how about you?

Blessings of Ascension Day,  

Pastor Ed 

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