The Dean’s Corner: The Unfinished Work of Faith

The Dean’s Corner

The Unfinished Work of Faith

Today is Ascension Day, one of the principal feasts of the church.  We celebrate a moment in Jesus’ resurrected life when he left the disciples, ascending to heaven and commissioning them to carry his love and his presence to the ends of the earth.

Ascension Day is one of those feasts in our calendar that can challenge our rational perspective on faith: on this day we mark and celebrate something particular in the story of Jesus that doesn’t make logical sense and isn’t so easily converted to a more palatable metaphor. I wonder if that isn’t a good thing: the story of Jesus is filled with particularities that are valuable simply for the story they tell and not just for the meaning we can draw from them. In short, the story of Jesus is intrinsically holy, and sometimes it’s okay to not know what certain moments “mean.”

Yet there is always meaning to be found, if we take a moment to look. One way I see this as Jesus saying an in-person farewell (and don’t we use the word “in-person” with more meaning now?) in such a way as to leave no clear break point.  Jesus departed in a way that left incarnate ministry to the disciples, to his followers, but not in a way that left a clean break between his physical presence and his spiritual presence. To me, that means that from the very beginning, the church has been an unfinished and incomplete manifestation of Christ’s presence in the world. That we are still going though growing pains is perfectly natural, and indeed hopeful. The minute we stop reaching to expand our hearts and expand our message of love and inclusion is the minute that we cease to really be the Body of Christ.

We gather each Sunday – whether in-person or livestreamed – to work towards completion. Yet we know that in this life we’ll never quite get there. Sometimes it’s the journey that matters most of all.

The Very Rev. Bernard J Owens