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Seated at the right hand of the Father

seated at the right hand of the Father

seated at the right hand of the Father

We’ve done enough, I hope, on metaphor. There is a reflection on the Ascension. Let us take as read that God does not have a right hand, and heaven is not up.

Let’s talk about absence and presence. An absence is a special sort of presence.

Don’t think of an elephant. There is no elephant in this place, yet somehow, noticing the absence of the elephant has drawn attention to the elephant that isn’t here.

If you’ve lost a tooth, you can’t stop your tongue from going there. The absent tooth is more present than the tooth when it was there. An absence is a special sort of presence.

The story of Jesus, after his death and resurrection, ends with the risen Jesus leaving. Previously, he could, like you and me, only be in one place at one time. Now that he leaves, now that he is absent, there is a special sort of presence.

Don’t tell me that the early church, the early friends of Jesus, didn’t miss Jesus once he had gone. Of course they did.

They very, very quickly encountered all sorts of new situations that Jesus’ teachings had not covered. Jesus had only been teaching for such a short time. And so they soon had fights and arguments and disputes about all the stuff Jesus hadn’t talked about, not to mention all the stuff that Jesus had talked about but not really been very clear about.

The picture of Jesus ascended and seated at the right hand of God the Father is a picture of Jesus reigning; Jesus being in charge, in control. Jesus – God’s prime minister. That’s one picture we find in the Bible.

Another picture we find in the Bible is of the chaos I’ve described: early Christians arguing, confused, and chaotic.

So we have these two pictures: Jesus by being absent is Lord, is fully in control – and yet Jesus by being absent appears to not be in control, because people are arguing about the details he hasn’t left any specifics about. The two pictures seem to be conflicting. Seem to be.

Because I get the suspicion that they are actually the same picture.

Jesus seemed to have an incredibly simple message: love God, love others, love yourself, care for creation. And he lived the message. To the full. To the extreme. To the point where his life is his message.

Maybe, just maybe (I’m suggesting), the details are important – we can’t actually live without the details – but maybe we can have different details, even conflicting details sometimes, disagreeing details – and actually be living the same teaching, living the same Jesus’ life.

Generally, the bigger a teaching is (the more and more details in the teaching) the more rules. If there is a long list of individual beliefs you have to tick – then the group that ticks all the boxes in this long list will be quite small – and everyone in this group will be pretty much the same.

But if you have just a few central, strong, important beliefs and values (without many details), simple beliefs, fewer boxes to tick – you end up with a big group of people with lots of variety. There’s still unity, but the unity is with great diversity, not so much uniformity. Part of the genius of Jesus, it seems to me, is that the core of his beliefs, the core of his teaching, the core of his life and lifestyle is so small and simple.

Jesus ascended, enthroned and reigning, does so over a world that to us may seem divided, and chaotic. That may be because we are so used to a different way of authority; a different way of presence. But absence is a different form of presence.

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*****

This is the eighteenth post in a series on the Creed.

The first is Apostles’ Creed.
The second is I believe in God.
The third is a source of the Apostles’ Creed.
The fourth is I believe in the Father.
The fifth is Handing over the Creed.
The sixth is I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son
The seventh is Don’t use the creed in worship
They eighth is Truly God truly human
The ninth is Conceived by the Holy Spirit
The tenth is Don’t use the creed in worship (part 2)
The eleventh is Born of the Virgin Mary
The twelfth is Don’t use the creed in worship (part 3)
The thirteenth is Crucified under Pontius Pilate
The fourteenth is crucified
The fifteenth is Holy Saturday
This sixteenth is He descended to the dead
The seventeenth is on the third day he rose again

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12 Responses to Seated at the right hand of the Father

  1. I like the use of metaphor and the slight ambiguity it leaves over the literality of the resurrection (as distinct from the reality of resurrection in general).

    Only question is: maybe I’m having a mental blank, but where does Jesus’ life care for creation? Fig tree?

    • Thanks, Tim. Trying to take your question seriously. The incarnation, ie. Jesus’ whole life is an affirmation of creation. Jesus, in story after story, shows his love, care for, and enjoyment of creation. Is that what you mean? Blessings.

  2. I like this post very much.

    The Church has always had a certain diversity of theology, liturgy, and law (within due limits) and so has Judaism (which was never a monolithic religion).

    Love requires respect for the dignity of the human person, which implies respect for difference, and Churches need to make space for difference.

    vive la différence !

    God Bless

  3. A potentially important message for our Church here Bosco, thanks! Of course, everyone has to be willing to accept the different/conflicting/disagreeing details.

    • Thanks, Brian. At the end of the day – it’s not going to be everyone. How small do we allow the agreement-at-all-cost minority to become and still let it hold the variety-in-the-details majority to ransom? Blessings.

  4. This was a very powerful reflection. It is only human to long for order, for questions to have definitive answers, for things to be ‘sorted out’, etc. Yet, we should be careful what we wish for. It is by far the better way if we can embrace the peace, joy, love and inspiration in Jesus and his life/message – the Big Message – and be content to have diversity and conversation about the smaller things. Jesus is Lord! (even over our confusion). Thank you, Bosco.

  5. It seems when we lose a beloved one to death we are constantly reminded of the things we loved most about them. In the same way the holy spirit never really leaves us we are comforted by these memories. When autumn leaves fall is a seasonal cue that Jesus has not actually left us behind but is showing His presence through this event. In the same way we can be comforted in knowing we were left with enough knowledge to heal from any deep hurt and loss even if it is from afar.

  6. Hello!
    I have started an Episcopalian Bloggers linkup at my blog, TheJonesesBlog.com, and wondered if you were interested in joining. The Episcopalian Bloggers linkup’s purpose is to promote the diversity of Episcopalians by advertising your church membership through a blog badge and blogroll. Having a collection of blogging Episcopalians in one place would be amazing for anyone interested in knowing exactly who Episcopalians are. (Which is to say, they are a diverse group of people.)

    To join the linkup, simple visit the Episcopalian Bloggers page on my blog @ http://www.thejonesesblog.com/2013/09/episcopalian-bloggers.html, retrieve the badge code, and add your blog’s information to the linkup. If you have any questions or concern, please contact me. I would love to have you join us!

    Lisa Jones

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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