Later this week, not on Sunday, we celebrate the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father. We reap the benefits of the ascension of Christ where He went to give gifts to men, and bring all of His enemies under His feet and control all things for our salvation and yet we treat the ascension as a sort of footnote. Since it is not celebrated on Sunday we tend to forget. It is tough enough to get people to come to church on Sunday let alone on a Thursday at the beginning of summer and vacation time. Ascension should be a big deal but we treat it like a footnote.
I am in a inveterate reader of footnotes. Sometimes the best part of the book is in the footnotes. Often the footnotes contain a treasure house of little threads of stories the lead to even more treasures and even better stories. Sometimes if you take in the threads you wander off into fascinating amniadversions and things that you might have read before but had forgotten. There are many insights and opportunities to learn things that you never knew before. There are great hints about why certain things are written down and why other things are left out. to give new insights into what you already. I have never quite figured out the difference between ibid, and op cite. So I looked it up. Ibid in the footnotes refers to work that you have already cited just before. An opcite is used to refer to a source that you used earlier with other references intervening. There is an ominous note on opcite that it is no longer being used all that much, but doesn’t say why. My guess is they, whoever they are, would rather have us waste money and time in redoing the whole foot. Be that as it may, the isreally cool stuff is in the footnotes.
So thinking about the reason for the ascension, to rule all things for the benefit of the church, and the fact that we and the world treat it as a footnote intrigues me. We see this in the intractable idea that preachers should never venture into politics. Christ is ruling all things. That is political. When powers and authorities rise up against the Lord and HIs Christ that is political.
Someone told me one that he just wanted to come to church and hear about “his Jesus” and if he wanted to hear about politics he could stay home and watch TV. That was a fascinating concept. “HIs Jesus” is so tiny and particular that we can only talk about Him in a narrowly confined and “safe” way in certain spot and at a certain time. Ascension tells us that our Jesus rules all things and all things will be wrapped up in Him. So Christ rules all things be the power and might of His deity, and all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him, but we can’t talk about Him when it comes to political stuff. What a revolting concept. What a denial of a radical Gospel.
Justification by grace through faith is confessional shorthand for “radical gospel”; “God, to whom men can find no way, has in Christ creatively opened up the way by which man may and must go”. This is part of a great article by Martin Franzmann called “Seven Thesis on Reformation Hermenutics” CTM vol 40 no4 1969. There is a footnote there that defined radical as “essential, foundation, that which gets to the nub of thing”. That leads us to another observation by Franzmann –
“Scripture as radical gospel witnesses is the way of the servant, historical, verbal, incarnational. The Lord God moves in history, on the ground, amid the collisions of nations. He deals with Pharaoh and Tiglath-Pilezer and Pontius Pilate and Domitian. And the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets; he announces, interprets, and recalls his mighty acts with penetrating loquacity. His ultimate, eschatological Word is the Word made flesh, a whole yea to the created world and its history. If we take the radical gospel seriously, we must take language and history seriously.”
God does nothing without revealing it to His servants the prophets and so he tells us what is going on every where, even in the political realm and we make choices constantly to silence our loquacious. God we meekly choose to make all of our conversation like a thanksgiving dinner where no one talks about religion or politics. The ascension of Christ means that if that is true we have nothing to talk about. That is precisely what the world and our flesh and the devil want us to believe.