Then [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hand, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. – Luke 24:50-51 NRSV
Ascension. Another weird story in Christian scriptures that I’d rather ignore. Jesus – the risen Christ – carried into heaven. Forty days after Easter. A Christian holy day. My guess is many Protestants don’t realize it’s come and gone.
So when looking up a quilt fabric store on the internet the other day I was surprised to discover the following announcement in large, yellow letters at their top of their web page:
Store is CLOSED Thur. May 30th for Ascension Day
Really? Here in Iowa?!! I’ll try to remember to ask about it when (if) I get there.
Ascension was not acknowledged in any way, shape, or form by my home congregation this year. If I’d been preaching last week, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it either.
But our local Roman Catholic church marked the day at weekend masses.
And the priest did something I like to do when preaching.
He quoted from a contemporary text.
Not a commentary. Not an overtly Christian or specifically religious book.
A work of fiction published in my lifetime:
Jonathan Livingston Seagull: a story by Richard Bach.
They came in the evening, then, and found Jonathan gliding peaceful and alone through his beloved sky. The two gulls that appeared at his wings were pure as starlight, and the glow from them was gentle and friendly in the high night air. But most lovely of all was the skill with which they flew, their wingtips moving a precise and constant inch from his own.
Without a word, Jonathan put them to his test a test that no gull had ever passed. He twisted his wings, slowed to a single mile per hour above stall. The two radiant birds slowed with him, smoothly, locked in position. They knew about slow flying.
He folded his wings, rolled and dropped in a dive to a hundred ninety miles per hour. They dropped with him, streaking down in flawless formation.
At last he turned that speed straight up into a long vertical slow-roll. They rolled with him, smiling.
He recovered to level flight and was quiet for a time before he spoke. “Very well,” he said, “who are you?
“We’re from your Flock, Jonathan. We are your brothers.” The words were strong and calm. “We’ve come to take you higher, to take you home.”
Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull: a story, (c) 1970
Do you know the story? Jonathan, a seagull, had been cast off from the flock. He didn’t fly simply to find food and eat. He flew for the shear joy of flying. And that was unthinkable, unacceptable, intolerable. So he was alone.
And now he is not.
That’s not where the priest went with the story. But it is what has caught my imagination after re-reading the book on Sunday. Though physically alone in a particular time and place, Jonathan was not alone in pursuing a dream of perfect flight. He had kindred out there somewhere. One day, they found him.
When you’re feeling cast off from the crowd (whether a little or lot),
may you know you are not alone.
May your kindred find you – or you find them –
and together pursue a dream that brings beauty and joy into the world.