The Heart of Things
The poet Emily Dickinson caricatured her families’ religious observance as “the worship of an eclipse.” A once vital and original encounter had withered and calcified; God had been covered up (eclipsed) by lifeless, secondhand forms. For those of us who appreciate the elegance of liturgy and power of ritual, Dickinson’s critique is worth considering. Christianity in the New Testament is apocalyptic. It involves not “the shadow of the things to come” but the uncovering of “the reality found in Christ.” (Col. 2:17)
This Sunday we’ll celebrate the Ascension of Jesus. Like Christmas and Easter – it’s more popular cousins – Ascension is a feast in the Christian liturgical year. We commemorate Jesus’ exaltation to the place of preeminent authority and the blessings of his heavenly rule. If Christmas and Easter look back, Ascension focuses on the present. It’s about what Christ continues to do for us as he sits at the Father’s right hand.
Perhaps more than any other day of the Christian year, Ascension invites us to consider the fresh, unexpected ways Christ is at work in the world and the freedom and power we receive from him to bear witness. It’s an antidote to the “eclipsing” observed by Dickinson. I’m grateful we’ll be devoting an entire Sunday to consider its significance.
To prepare for Sunday, you might benefit from spending time with this poem by Malcolm Guite. Jesus has indeed taken us with him into “the heart of things.”
We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we our selves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed .
Waiting with you-