Friday, May 22, 2020

Layup Jesus and One Foot (Barely) Grounded: A Reflection for Ascension Sunday

 Layup Jesus.

That’s what we called him when our group of pilgrims visited the Mt. of Olives and the traditional site of the Ascension. Our irreverence was only countered by the monastic brothers following behind us in prayer. 

The tiny chapel at the top of the hill is built upon the supposed single footprint of the ascended Jesus. It is believed, we were told by our guide, the other was stolen. Our group preferred the tradition of Jesus driving the lane and ascending to the hoop with his left foot planted and the other mid-air. 

Modern scholarship is divided. 

Ascension Sunday is often overlooked, lost between Easter and Pentecost. In light of #quarantinelife, I missed it altogether. What day is it anyway?

That’s right, Wednuesursday. 

One of the reasons I think for the second-rate status on the liturgical calendar, or at least mine, may be because of what it reminds us. Jesus is not here. Jesus has risen. Sure, we celebrate the empty tomb, but the opening chapter of Acts reaffirms the same bewilderment and sense of abandonment those first disciples felt when they saw Jesus ripped from them once more. When they needed their Teacher and Friend the most, they encountered yet another disappearance act. All they, and we generations later, are left with is a single footprint in stone upon the Mt. of Olives. At least, it feels that way.

Nevertheless, they pressed on in their time and place, to their own ends of the earth. And we will, too. Many are, and this strengthens my resiliency each day. 

Like so many others, my faith has been challenged quite a bit in the midst of this pandemic. It could be said, I have one foot grounded in hope and the other located somewhere completely and wholly elsewhere- where is yet to be determined. I have struggled with how or whether to speak about this at all. Then I was reminded, empathy in the midst of uncertainty is far more beneficial than kitschy, pithy, and artificial attempts at certainty or resolve. 

I learned that in Pastoral Care 101.

My friends, these days are hard. Do not think for a second you are alone if your work and witness are *not* draped with optimism and faith untethered to doubt. You may even have one foot grounded and the other elsewhere. My hunch is we all do. Maybe Ascension Sunday is simply the day to acknowledge it, listen to it, speak it to another, and find much needed solidarity able to carry you forward, one step at a time. Maybe then we will find Jesus…in the face and (virtual) fellowship of another.