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 Ascensions

There have been a lot of ascensions, those mysterious moments when holy people have risen up into the air and disappeared into the clouds, and more than likely into the heavens of God somewhere way out there beyond our universe, beyond our imagination. I love that thought.Breaking away from the hold of gravity is a challenge, as our astronauts well know. Getting high in the sky is a tough, expensive effort to see what is up there, be it a human flight in a plane  or rocket or a machine wandering among the stars. There is something marvelous about flying and being as physically high as one can get over this earth. I feel it draws mountain climbers to the highest peaks in the world. How high can one get? How close to heaven? Surely, many of us have experienced,  what one might call, a rise up in the air, or lifting up or some flying experience, real or imaginative, a moment away from earth, although in the end, we are sucked back down to terra firma.

Not Jesus. He, above all, knew his destination,  where He was ascending. His was a return to His Place with His Father, the one who created earth, the universe, even us.  Jesus ascended as a true human being well covered in remnants and marks of what he had just been through - cuts on his arms, legs, head, bruises, nail scars, spear wounds on his belly - all on account of us.  He could not die on earth. That would have cemented His being on the earth forever.  That was not in His plan.  Jesus was The Holy Only Son of God  ready to return home to His Father. As He ascended, His spirit, the Advocate, was descending to live in those of us who believed in Him. He would be in every single human on earth, but many did not know it, believe it, or trust it. No matter what we do, who we are, it has always been God’s promise not ever to leave us alone.

God, at moments in time,  has given the most righteous of men and surely women, who have been part  of the evolution  of this land, a foretaste of heaven by bringing them up for a look, often  before their imminent death - Adam, Seth, Enoch, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Levi, Moses, Elijah, Micah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Baruch, as well as Muhammed the Prophet and the Blessed Virgin Mary, who at her death ascended from her small home in Ephesus, Turkey, where the apostle John had cared for her.( I have been blessed to have visited there, to kneel in that simple stone castle, and walk the garden. A place of peace and hope.) Even St. Paul said he had visited the third heaven and paradise where “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.”

Jesus’s ascension has been a popular subject in art - well robed, with hair down to his shoulders, too caucasian of a face for someone born in the Middle East,  His arms outstretched in the air repeating the pose He experienced hanging on the cross. His body glowed like sunlight, having completed His promise, His task, His glory, now going home by the sky highway to be again with his Father. There, with the Holy Spirit, they would be able to save us all down below.  So He was lifted up or exalted and the cloud absorbed him, received him, embracing him with the Divine Presence.

Those, who saw Jesus leave, were aghast and stood and waited and watched til He was not visible anymore, there being no fancy telescopes in those days, and I wonder if they worried if He would drop, fall, land on His feet again to sooth their fears, or was He truly gone for good. Surely confusion reign among those who accompanied him to that last step on earth.  I can imagine his followers, eyes teary, heads looking up, hands shielding their faces from the glorious sun, or surely raised in prayer and thanksgiving and maybe even song. “Go, Christ our savior, we love you forever.” They, being awed, at least understood.

Then they surely mumbled among themselves - At least we have the Holy Spirit in our souls to guide us and that means now each one of us have Christ in us. We must be quiet and listen to His Words and do them. At least the world has been redeemed. This was round one. We pray it will happen again.

Jesus is now up there on the right hand of his father. Will He come again, as promised, to judge us, alive or dead? Does that mean bodies or souls? What about the good people who have been cremated? and soldiers buried in holes and rivers of enemy territory during war, those who still sacrifice their lives for us, and those murdered or assassinated never to be found again.  And now, 2000 years later,  we sadly lift up to Him the victims of another virus which has choked off people’s lives too quickly, too violently, because there is no cure and too much confusion and politics, so far. Is it about power or about people?

The point is Ascension Day is a day, to thank our God for having shared His Son with us, a human man who taught us how to believe, to behave, to love, to know and worship God the Father, and who gifted us with a farewell promise - that He will return and take us to join Him in Heaven.


 ~ Rev
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audrey@audreytaylorgonzalez.com
www.audreytaylorgonzalez.com

 

The Rev. Audrey Taylor Gonzalez is sharing her Sermons with All Saints' Episcopa

Click on her website for more inspirational sermons!

 

  www.audreytaylorgonzalez.com

 

 

 

My Sheperd Is?

Warthogs and wild boar, pumas, long tailed monkeys, wandering moose, feral horses, mountain goats, black bears, sea lions, fallow deer, buffalo, long horn sheep, alligators - the beasts are moving into the emptied, vacant streets of our villages and cities, once known as civilization but now abandoned and closed down because of a deadly virus called COVID-19, something that is not even a bug, a bacteria, or insect but an irritating, clinging, disease-making invisible piece of protein that looks to kill us. It cannot even survive without a host, which, on finding one (it attacks all kinds of hosts), the virus tries to reprogram to its liking.  That means, it has to have a shepherd to exist, and that’s why it attacks, recycles and robs the good things in us so that it can survive.

Surely, those lost, non-urban wanderers, invaders, those beautiful normally wild beasts are  wondering how these new spaces opened up and how can they be useful to them in their lostness. They stroll, they sniff, they slip and slide, they nibble and bite into new textures. They search for something that seems familiar - some odor, some meal, some sound. And where is the chief, the leader, the shepherd on whom they always have depended for safety and guidance?

So they roam and run and gallop and creep - but there is no leader. There is no shepherd.

There is no guide. There is little familiar. They are lost, confused, and bold as they test the air and ground and seek some sort of sustenance and lifestyle. Maybe they make a crying sound. Where is the voice of the shepherd? Where is the leader of the pack? Our whole nation is starving for a shepherd we can trust.

A shepherd is the enemy of thieves and bandits and evil things. His ministry is to protect not only the animals, but the owners who count on him to be vigilant and to sound the alarm as well as rescue the sheep if they get stuck in a hole or caught in a rock or are attacked by a wolf or they wander too far from the herd and cannot find their way home. Then, into this picture steps the shepherd who loves each one of his sheep and will risk his life to keep them together and safe.

The shepherd is smarter than the sheep. He knows the way, the landscape, the rocks and hills, the task that is before him. He is in charge, not some wayward thief, and he knows how to unlock /open the gate. This not only corrals the herds in a controlled area where they cannot wander off and get lost, but the gate can  be opened so they all move out in a bunch and munch on the grasses that fill the hills and dales which are their pastures, their green pastures, often beside still cool waters.  There they can roam, move, stretch their legs, and roll in the dust, if they wish, while the next crop of wool is growing on their skin.

In the fields and mountains of our life, there are shepherds who usually stand tall. A good shepherd towers over his herd, his cluster, his group. He has enough height  and wisdom to be able to see in a glance all the sheep in his herd. His voice is calm and we know his sound and the movements of his arms or his staff. I cannot forget that movie Babel, where  the task of shepherding  belonged to a child-size shepherd like one encounters in barren lands of Africa,  Iran, Iraq, the Middle East. The barefoot boy had to climb to a higher level , to a world he didn’t know, for a complete view  of his scattered herd, and, hopefully, with help from his dog, they could corral the herd when it was time to go in for a meal because the sheep know him and adhere to his shout or cry for order.

Even dogs search for, wait for, hope for their shepherd to acknowledge him or her with a pat on the head, a kind and playful word, that whistle they know as a signal. The trusty sheepdogs, assistants to the shepherd, that nip at the legs of lazy lamb or calf, are being fazed out. Too slow. Too tedious. And I wonder who now hears the baaa of the lamb or the moan of the cattle not so anxious to move fast. In the days of our wild west, there was war between the sheep holders and the cattle ranchers about grazing rights and who was best for the land. The two types of crew were distinct in how they gathered their herds together. The cattle wranglers, balancing in deep saddles on quarter-horses, with their lassos and whistles and the ferociousness of the fast moving steed, worked from behind the herd of cattle. But always with the sheep, the shepherd was in front, on foot. He went first and the sheep followed. Smart dogs might hold up the rear if a sheep or lamb strayed. But all followed the shepherd as we follow our shepherd Jesus. Their lives were in his hands.

The Lord IS my shepherd, we say faithfully. We know that 23rd Psalm from childhood. It declares that  I shall not lack what I need and I may rest in the greenest of pastures near cold refreshing waters because HE, our shepherd,  is always with us, looking over us, leading us, restoring our confused minds, especially when we lose our direction, and He encourages our next step forward. Yes, we all need that shepherd - both human and animal, someone to lead us forward, not backward. Yet today, who can we trust on this earth to be that shepherd?

How would we recognize him? Well, the shepherd carries a tall stick. It curves at the top. He uses it to bring order over a bunch of misbehaving sheep, or he rests on it for a minute while standing a long time in the pastures. It is as tall as he is and I guess could be a weapon if someone tried to invade or rustle his herd. So important is this stick, it is called a Crozier and is symbolically carried by the highest ranked leader of the Christian church, the Bishops, who have been called to be our shepherds.

How can we distinguished the calls of the shepherds - which shepherd is mine? Worry not. Christ knows his sheep. And we will know His Voice when He appears and calls us home to that amazing place to be gifted to us for eternity - where we can always be within our shepherd’s embrace.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own - and my own know me.” This means a love connection.  Those who love or trust the shepherd know him and follow him. Those who don’t, might still learn who the real shepherd is. It is Jesus Christ who laid down his life for his sheep, that’s us.
 
 ~ Rev

A happy:  Remember wishing the weekend would last forever?  Happy Now????