At our Diocese of Reno, Nevada Cathedral, we can look up from the altar to see a statue of Jesus Christ as he ascends into the clouds. If we look higher we can see the image of the dove, symbol of the Divine Wind, the Holy Spirit as it rushes to descend upon us. Ascension Sunday is all about this. Jesus ascends into the clouds so the Holy Spirit may descend upon us, giving wisdom.
Our Gospel tells us, “Jesus told his students: “Go into the entire Cosmos proclaiming the Good News to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized is saved; whoever does not believe is condemned.”
n our Cathedral Courtyard sits the patron saint of our religious order, St. Francis of Assisi. He was the fruity saint who talked to the birds and other animal life. St. Francis got it right. Jesus does not tell his followers, “Go into the world of the middle-class people proclaiming the Good News.” The Greek “Cosmos,” means “Good order, good behavior, and decency.” “God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of waters He called Seas; God saw that it was satisfying. The word for creature has as its root, “A founding, foundation, a creating, the creation of the universe.” We proclaim the Good News, not just to the American middle-class or to people, but to all of God’s creation. He created all.
The article “Are you ready for some baseball in the Garden of Eden?” discusses how “Paradise” comes from a Persian root meaning the Garden of Eden. The article also relates how, at the time of the Second Coming, we will return to that Garden of Eden where we started.
The passive voice in sentence construction is interesting. It does not give us the agent of the action. “Whoever believes and is baptized is saved.” “Whoever does not believe is condemned.” Hebrew and Aramaic do not have past or future tense to their verbs, and St. Mark almost certainly thought in Aramaic. Christians like to think the agent of the action in relation to saving and condemning is God. The agent of the action could simply be those who are saved and condemned. They choose not to be part of the web of the world.
Freethinking atheists such as Adam Smith came up with his “Law of unintended consequences.” Everything is inter-related, anything acting on any one-thing acts upon all. Nobody knows all the consequences of all our actions; there must be unintended consequences.
Native Americans teach us “Mitakuye Owasin,” “All are my relatives.” “All” means all of creation. We are all part of the garden, although man has the divine breathe within him. When we choose not to be part of the garden by condemning others, the only people we really condemn are ourselves. If we do not believe God is in control and must take action ourselves, we take ourselves out of the garden. We condemn ourselves.
Our second reading takes up St. Paul’s argument, “Live in a manner worthy of your calling/vocation/ profession. With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bear with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit/Divine Breath through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your calling; one Personal Name, one faith, and one baptism.” We are all one. As we look down with the Holy Spirit from above our altar, we see Jesus Christ welcoming us to the garden. We also see the altar. It is no coincidence that our Gospel reading begins, “As the eleven were at table, Jesus appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.”
The table is the table of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the place where we are all one under the One Personal Name, with one faith and one baptism, one near death experience with that prisoner dying next to Jesus who rises with Jesus into Paradise, the Garden of Eden. If we cannot do it here, why should God think we could do it in the coming Garden of Eden? The article “The wolf of Gubbio, Legion, and the parable of the sower,” relates how what separates poor soil from rich soil is that rich soil is spiritual. It has air in it. As a result, it is soft and pliable. “Jesus appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.” We need to be soft and pliable. Are we up to the task? Do we come to the altar to become spiritual? Do we come to the altar to become, “spiritual,” in the sense of pietistic? We decide!