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By Ted Schroder,
Ascension Sunday, May 28, 2017

"Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (NIV)

"If you are 'risen' with Christ, reach out for the highest gifts of Heaven, where Christ reigns in power. Give your heart to the heavenly things, not to the passing things of earth. For, as far as this world is concerned, you are already dead, and your true life is a hidden one in God, through Christ. One day, Christ, the secret center of our lives, will show himself openly, and you will all share in that magnificent denouement." (JBP)

"So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ -- that's where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life -- even though invisible to spectators -- is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too -- the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile be content with obscurity, like Christ." (The Message)

At the Ascension, Jesus returned to heaven after his birth, life, death and resurrection on earth. Because he has been elevated to the position of highest sovereignty over the universe, he pervades the universe with his presence. While we have not yet been raised from the dead physically, we have been raised from the dead spiritually in Christ. We share the life of Christ. We are part of the body of Christ which he has taken into heaven.

"We too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised to us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies...although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace...the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head." (St. Augustine).

"Thou hast raised our human nature on the clouds to God's right hand:
there we sit in heavenly places, there with thee in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels; Man with God is on the throne;
mighty Lord, in thine ascension, we by faith behold our own."
(Christopher Wordsworth)

We believe that instead of waiting until the last day to receive the resurrection-life, those who have been raised with Christ possess it here and now. The new creation has already begun in them. Spiritually -- that is to say, 'in Christ' -- they belong already to the age to come and enjoy its life.

You have here the contrast between the present and the future, the physical and the spiritual, the earthly and the heavenly. He is painting a picture of the potential and the fulfillment of salvation. This is called proleptic theology: an anticipation of that which is to happen in the future.

This spring a male and a female cardinal constructed a nest on our deck light. Three eggs appeared, then there were three fledglings holding their mouths open to be fed, and finally the birds matured and flew away. Those birds were present in those eggs but they did not know of the world in which they would be launched until the proper time arrived. They had no premonition of the life they would lead while they were still in those eggs, or even when they were first hatched.

You and I are like those eggs. Inside of each of us are the germs of great things. These are the lives we are to be hidden in Christ. Sometimes in moments of illumination you get some inklings of what you are to be, and you long to burst out of your shell and become what you are designed to be -- the real you, the glorious you. But now you have to prepare for that time. You are an undeveloped being; you do not yet have your wings, and there has to be the slow process of growth into maturity, before you can experience the heavenly life. There are many hindrances and dangers that have to be overcome in order to become what you were designed to be. There are many hang-ups, and failings, obsessions and difficulties which you have experienced and inherited that have to be confronted and conquered. Development into maturity does not come easily. It requires awareness and effort.

"Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above." "Reach out for the highest gifts of Heaven, where Christ reigns in power. Give your heart to the heavenly things, not to the passing things of earth." "Pursue the things over which Christ presides. See things from his perspective."

While God has birthed us into a new resurrection life that has been taken into heaven in Christ, we are now called to develop into the maturity of that life. We cannot remain as eggs, or as fledglings, as infants or children. That is your old life. Your new life, which is your real life, life in all its fullness, life which will be suited to live in heaven -- even though it is invisible -- is hidden with Christ in God. He is your life. He is the source of your life, the substance of your life, the sustenance of your life, and the solace of your life. Therefore anything that is incompatible with Christ must be left behind.

"And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God....so make sure it's all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk....From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense." (The Message)

All this takes intentional action. If we are to live into the life of heaven, which is our destiny, we are to turn our potential into fulfillment. You must pursue those things which belong to heaven: your mind, your attitude, your ambitions, your goals, your plans, your whole outlook must be characterized by your life with the ascended Christ. You died with Christ; now you live with him and in him. Your life is bound up with his; that is to say, it is laid up in safe keeping with him, securely hidden in God. The world cannot see your real life at present, just as it cannot see Christ. A day is coming, however, when Christ will be revealed in glory; and since Christ himself is our true life, it follows that you too -- you whose life is at present hidden with him -- will then be revealed with him and share his glory.

Knowing all this our lives on earth can be seen in a different light. We are destined for greater things. We should act as being bound on a journey that takes us beyond this earth, beyond this universe, above the hosts of heaven, above all the ranks of angels, beyond the highest heavenly powers to the very throne of God. What a prospect!


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