Wait. Pray., Ascension Day (B) – May 10, 2018

Episcopal sermon ascension


[RCL]: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

Today’s first reading and gospel form an unusual pair.  They both come from the two-volume work attributed to Luke the Evangelist.  One is from the end of the first volume, the book we call the Gospel according to Luke.  The other is from the start of the second volume, the book we call the Acts of the Apostles.

Both readings deal with events around the ascension of Jesus.  In each passage, Jesus promises his disciples that they will receive power from on high.  And in each passage, he tells them that they must stay in the city, they must wait, for the realization of this promise.

Their period of waiting is memorialized in the church year.  For here we are, on Ascension Day, which commemorates the return of Jesus to his Father.  Nine days must pass until the Day of Pentecost comes, when we commemorate that gift of power from on high.

This nine-day period is sometimes called Ascension Season.  It is the conclusion of the Great Fifty Days of Easter.  Thus, it appears as a season within a season.

For the first disciples, it was a time of remaining in Jerusalem. A time to wait, and a time to pray. It reminds us, who are later disciples of Jesus, of the role of prayer and waiting in our lives.

Prayer and waiting sound pretty safe until we remember that our society has little patience with those who decide to wait and pray. Ours is an action-oriented culture, action-oriented to a fault, so that many of us pass much of our time struggling with stress and weariness.

Our culture is no friend to prayer, either, except possibly prayer that reinforces the status quo.  But all authentic prayer is a response to God, and God has been known to be a change agent.

Moreover, prayer acknowledges our dependence on God, and our culture is, at heart, uncomfortable with an acknowledgment of dependence.  Our culture is independence-oriented, independence-oriented to a fault, so that many of us live and die in considerable isolation from one another.

In the face of all this, then, there is something subversive about coming to church on Ascension Day because this feast is not just a goodbye to Jesus as he makes his way home; it is an invitation to countercultural activities such as waiting and prayer.

On this day, our attention might well focus on the triumphant Christ as he, in ways past our understanding, ascends through all the heavens. Our attention might well rivet on how he ascends in his humanity, and that therefore we who are human, we who are his body, ascend together with him.

But today I would like us to consider instead those waiting, praying disciples gathered in Jerusalem, anticipating power from on high. What they do is countercultural by our standards.  They wait.  They pray.

But there is still more about them that makes our dominant culture uncomfortable.  They wait, they pray, not simply out of obedience. They wait, they pray, because they desire. They desire that promised power from on high and all that it makes possible.  Their desire is good and holy.

Ours is a culture that accepts desire only to trivialize it.  Our TV commercials sing hymns to hamburgers, they celebrate the glories of dish detergent.  Our politicians–many of them–incite our fears and jealousies, rather than help us desire greater justice.  Poets and artists, writers and film-makers are often not widely known among us unless they bend our desires in directions violent or sentimental in the manner of much popular culture.  Yes, we accept desire only to debase it, to turn its focus from what is finally desirable and authentically glorious toward the trivial and the tragic, things that have no future.

One of the most memorable sculptures of the last several centuries depicts the Spanish mystic Teresa of Avila caught in a moment of ecstasy.  This work by Bernini is a very human presentation, yet the presence of the divine cannot be denied.  The sculpture presents the Holy One as manifest in this woman’s life, together with her desire for God.

Art like this seems a world away from our society’s cheapening of desire.  And so, as a society, we lack the ability to understand what, for Teresa, is the big deal.  Because we have trivialized passion, we have weakened our own ability to recognize a desire for that which is the greatest of all, namely God.

The days and seasons of the church calendar represent attitudes that remain important to us all the year round.  This is especially true now, during this Ascension Season.  Christ returns home to the Father, and the gathered disciples wait and pray and desire.  Their desire is for God, for the complete coming of the kingdom, for the power from on high that will make their lives bright torches.

Can we make their particular brand of waiting and prayer and especially desire hallmarks of our lives?  I believe this is possible.

Set free from cheapened forms of desire, from violence and from sentimentality, we can desire the One who is the most desirable.  This will renew our various desires so that they will no longer be frustrated or misdirected or frail.  Instead, these desires of ours will become worthy of the God who pierces the hearts of his saints with desire for himself because his heart is pierced with desire for us.

The Rev. Charles Hoffacker lives in Greenbelt, Maryland with his wife Helena Mirtova and serves as priest associate at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Beltsville, Maryland.  He is the author of A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals (Cowley Publications).  Many of his sermons appear on sermonwriter.com.  He can be reached via email at charleshoffacker8@gmail.com.

Download the sermon for Ascension Day (B).

Moving toward Christian unity, Ascension Day (A,B,C) – 2015

May 14, 2015

Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

“Lord, is it time?” How many questions like that do we ask on our journey in faith?

In today’s reading from the Book of Acts, while the apostles were still looking for deliverance from political domination and oppression, they asked, “Lord is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” It is a question many believers ask today.

Jesus’ answer is simply to say we are asking the wrong question. It is not for us to know the time, nor whether God favors Israel and will restore it to its former glory. Rather, we are to be witnesses to all that Jesus has done, including fulfilling the Law and the prophets by his suffering and death.

The Ascension makes Jesus a universal figure, drawing us all to him, and sending us to be witnesses of the Good News. There is no time to ponder; now is the time to act – together.

Recently, a small town found itself in the midst of a struggle over religion – not unusual for small towns. The struggle had to do with who were the real Christians. One group organized a Jesus parade for the day before Easter. The organizers were mostly made up of folks from the more conservative and evangelical churches. When the mainline church groups went to register, they were told they couldn’t participate because their sign that proclaimed diversity and inclusiveness in Jesus was “too controversial.” So the mainline churches stayed away.

While nobody wanted a religious war, there did seem to be a line drawn between those who interpret scripture with proof text methods and those who interpret it in context. Those on the sidelines took some pleasure in the divide.

The universal ascended Lord confronts both of these groups of Christians to come together, challenging us to move away from the things that separate us and move toward the things that unite us.

Throughout the Book of Acts the apostles face difficulties, including their own divisions over how to interpret and share the Good News. The author of Acts doesn’t gloss over these sharp differences, but in the end shows how the unity of the gospel can be found when we allow ourselves to be drawn to the ascended Jesus rather than claiming the way we know him is the only way. As Peter learns after the Resurrection, God shows no partiality.

In today’s reading from Ephesians, the Apostle Paul prays that “the Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give [us] a spirit of wisdom and revelation as [we] come to know him.” In a time when our loyalties are challenged and divided by legislation, politics and religion, it is good to remember that the ascended Jesus prays for us and offers us wisdom and revelation, free from our own prejudices and fears, unbound so we can witness freely to all about the Good News of the gospel.

During these great 50 days between Easter and Pentecost, there is time to reflect on the universal ascended Lord and the gospel message. It will not be the same message in every place or every context, but it will be the Good News that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

As we prepare for the feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the church, keep in mind that we all share the Good News. How we express it depends on the time and the place.

Regard the ascended Lord as empowering. Our divisions in the Christian community disempower us. Jesus’ work is to redeem messes, personal and public. While we have a large responsibility in that work, we are never alone. The ascended Jesus prays for us, sends us the power of the Spirit, and guides us to do that work.

So ask Jesus to guide your thinking and actions in ways that bring about unity and overcome division. Ask Jesus to unburden your heart and mind of prejudice and hurtful thoughts that encourage separation among believers. Ask the ascended Lord to empower you to be a disciple, a candle of light in the darkness of division. Then wait for your orders.

The apostles depended on the risen and ascended Jesus to sustain them in very difficult circumstances. He promised them he would be with them, always. We inherit their difficulties and their promise. Most of all, we live in the light of the ascended Lord who sends us the Holy Spirit and will one day make us one.

 

— Ben Helmer is a retired priest living in Holiday Island, Ark. He has been affiliated with diverse small congregations for over 40 years.

God’s ongoing and enduring drama of love and adventure, Ascension Day (B) – May 17, 2012

May 17, 2012

Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

[NOTE: Dayenu is pronounced “die-YAY-new.”]

They say that the sequel is never the equal. The movie that comes after the original to expand the story never lives up to the first one. And it is even worse in movies that come in threes; trilogies are the worst.

Take the “Star Wars” movies, for example – the original “Star Wars” movies, mind you, the ones that came out in the 1970s and ’80s. The idea that George Lucas had back then was that there would be three movies that told a single story arc. So the second movie, “The Empire Strikes Back” would end on a low point: Han Solo is captured, the Empire is at the height of its power, Luke’s training was incomplete training, he found out that Darth Vader was his father and he lost a hand. This all makes for a pretty low point for our hero, and then it just ends! It just ends, leaving the audience feeling rather anxious and unfulfilled. But it is this feeling that the audience was able to bring into the final chapter of the saga and have all that anxiety relieved in the spectacular closure that “Return of the Jedi” gives.

The writings of Saint Luke are not altogether unlike the “Star Wars” saga, except the lines between Parts One, Two and Three are not as simple as the movies’ are. The Apostle Luke didn’t simply write The Gospel According to Luke, he also wrote The Acts of the Apostles. He prefaces both books with thanks to his patron Theophilus, whose name means in Greek “lover of God.” This has led scholars to suppose that Theophilus is a patron who paid for the accounts of Jesus and the Apostles to be written. There are others who think that Luke’s use of the name “Lover of God” might be a tipping of the hat to the reader – “breaking the fourth wall,” to use a cinematic term. What Saint Luke might be doing, then, is turning from writing the page to look directly at us, his readers, to say hello, and maybe even a wink through time, because he knew of the timelessness of his story.

What we have is something of a trilogy in the writings of Luke along with his engagement with the Hebrew Scriptures. Part One of the story of God is told in the life of Israel, especially the life of Moses and the Prophets. In the Gospel of Luke we get Part Two of the story of God, through the life and promises of Jesus Christ. And what we have in the Acts of the Apostles is Part Three of the story of God, this time through the Holy Spirit and the fulfillment of the promises of Jesus Christ.

So in today’s readings we arrive at the end of Part Two, although it has little in common with the dour ending of “The Empire Strikes Back.” Indeed, the disciples are left with great promises and blessings, and leave in joy to continually bless God in the Temple. What more could you ask for?

What more indeed! Luke leaves the ending of his gospel on a high note but an even higher note is hinted at when Jesus tells the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they have been clothed with power from on high. Jesus is, of course, alluding to the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descends upon the disciples and grants them power and authority, thus establishing the means for God continually to form for Himself a people – namely, the church.

Thus, the story of God is unlike any story that has ever been written or performed, because it never ends. It keeps going. The story goes on and on.

Our Jewish sisters and brothers have a special song that they sing at their Passover meals and prayers. The name of the song is “Dayenu.” The word dayenu basically translates as “it would have been enough.” The song goes, “It would have been enough for God to rescue us from the Egyptians, to split the Red Sea,” and it goes on, recounting every detail of the events of the Exodus. Each and every detail in and of itself would have been enough for God to show his glory and mercy. The song says that it would have been enough for God to establish the Sabbath and give the Law, and build the Temple, thus giving us all access to God. Dayenu. It would have been a sufficient showing of God’s grace for any one of these, but God keeps being gracious.

Here at the end of Luke, we get the preamble of the Christian dayenu – that the writings of those who experienced God in the life of Israel were somehow being enacted and fulfilled in the life of Jesus of Nazareth; that God raised Jesus from the dead, thus defeating death; and finally that the Holy Spirit would come upon them with great power. Dayenu. Each of these, by themselves, would have been enough of God’s grace.

It would have been enough if God had simply come as a person, incarnate, to stand with us in solidarity, to take our human nature and redeem it. As the Collect of the Incarnation says, “O God who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity.” Dayenu. This alone would have been sufficient.

It would have been enough if God had raised Jesus from the dead, to destroy death for us. As our Easter Collect says, “Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life.” This is more than sufficient. Dayenu.

All these wondrous graces aside, it would have been enough if God had only given us his Holy Spirit, to provide a means of grace and hope for glory by the giving of His very self. What an ongoing ending to the wondrous saga of God!

God is dayenu; every single act of God is sufficient for our salvation and sustenance. So what we find now, with today’s reading, is that we, the church, are enrolled in God’s story, God’s ongoing and enduring drama of love and adventure. And for that involvement we say, “Thanks be to God.”

 

— The Rev. Joshua Bowron serves as the senior assistant to the rector at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.

 

This moment in the story of Jesus, Ascension Day (B) – 2009

May 21, 2009

Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

“He came singing love, and He lived singing love
He died…singing love
He arose in silence
For the love to go on, we must make it our song
You and I be the singers!”

So begins a song from the New Zealand Hymnal. What was promised is removed for a time, so it can be more fully given.

This moment in the story of Jesus, God-with-us, is fascinating.

So much has happened. We have now walked through the story of His life, death, and resurrection. Now, with the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, so much more is promised – but not yet fully given.

Jesus’ last words in The Gospel According to Matthew restate the promise, “Remember: I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Yet, before we receive this gift in its fullness, we will pass through a time when it feels as if we’ve been left to our own devices. What is there to be learned in that time?

In our collect for this feast day of the Ascension, we recite that “our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all the heavens that He might fill all things.”

We may have thought that Jesus came just for some of us, to redeem only a portion of God’s creation. Those who first followed Jesus and were blessed to be personally reconciled with the Risen Lord, face to face, and who returned to rejoin the fold – they probably believed that at first.

But in this magnificent mystery of Jesus’ Ascension, the glory shared so far with but a few radiates out to fill every corner of creation – including those places we had presumed were irredeemable.

The Ascension is essentially a festival of the future. By it, we see that the life we receive by faith has a destiny, and that destiny includes far more than we have yet asked or imagined.
We are called to move with God in the power of the Spirit as it is being given, to move outside our usual circle to seek and serve God’s presence and life in every corner of creation. This will be for us both a struggle and a delight.

Of course, we need to believe we share this calling and give ourselves to be lifted up by Christ and with Christ, allowing God to forgive and heal us, to send us forth empowered, just as Jesus was sent into the world. With Jesus, we are to be incarnate in daily life, to speak truth to power, to extend a healing touch to those from whom others would flee, and to be ready to take up the cross we are given daily. We are to follow Jesus, even through death, into new life.

Are we ready to embrace so full a calling for ourselves?

There is a wonderful mystery play from the Middle Ages about the Ascension. It is said that after Jesus was lifted up from the earth and was ascending to heaven, the two men dressed in white follow after, straining to catch up with Him. These angels cry out: “Jesus! Jesus! Wait for us!”

Jesus turns to greet them, and as they continue to ascend together, says: “Yes, my friends! Well done!”

One of the angels replies: “That is what we should say to you, dear Lord, for you have done all that has been asked of you! But what will happen next? Isn’t there more to be done?”

Jesus answers: “Well, of course! There is always more to be done! But weren’t you paying attention down there? Didn’t you hear me give them what they will come to call ‘the Great Commission’? Now they will go forth and baptize all people into my continuing life and work, reconciling the whole world to myself!”

The two angels look at one another somewhat hesitantly, and then look back at Jesus. One of them cautiously says: “Well, certainly we heard all that. But haven’t you been paying attention to them? Do you really think you can count on that lot?”

“He’s right, you know,” the other angel says. “Honestly, what’s your back-up plan? What will you do if those you have left behind don’t continue your work?”

Jesus pauses for a moment and then says, simply, “There is no back-up plan.”

There is no back-up plan because the grace set free by the Resurrection, the Ascension, and ultimately the gift of the Holy Spirit is sufficient to affect God’s plan of salvation. The abiding question is whether and how we will choose to join in that work. Will we participate fully in the mending of creation, or will we choose to stand back and watch from a comfortable distance? And what a tragedy that would be, a choice to refuse the invitation to be fully alive.

It is a gift of love, this calling we have received to be as Jesus was and do as Jesus did, as members of Christ’s body. By baptism, we are embraced and challenged to receive the love God offers us in Jesus, and then to move out to share that love unconditionally.

We can choose not to move with God as the life of God radiates out to fill all of creation. We can choose to turn inward and cling to what we have previously recognized as signs of God’s presence among us. Or we can turn in our circles of faith and face outward, rejoicing to recognize and celebrate where God is present and active, even with many who will continue to serve God’s purpose while totally unaware of it.

There is a word in this for each of us personally. Most of us gravitate toward a limited circle of acquaintances, a comfort zone, to which we stay near. So much of our life energy goes into maintaining the borders of that comfort zone, and keeping close to that safe place. And that is a shame. For we know in our hearts that when fully alive, we will find ourselves stepping out of that circle again and again, to discover the Reign of God in ever new ways.

There is a word in this for us as a church and as congregations as well. In these most challenging and difficult times, with great change underway in our finances, our culture, and our global relationships, most will try to keep steering church life back to our personal comfort zones, to hold on dearly to church life as we’ve always known it. But the Risen and Ascended Lord, who is filling all things, beckons us to step out of our comfort zone and discover new ways to celebrate life and love, and to share boldly in the work of reconciling the whole world to God.

All of creation is being filled with the life and healing power of God. When we remember this, it changes how we experience everything. For then we will have confidence that whatever we are called to endure now will lead us in God’s time and in God’s way to be raised and lifted up with Jesus to draw the whole world into deeper companionship with God and one another in Christ.

This truly is grace.

A wonderful prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book, is born of this very moment in our salvation history:

Lord,
it is night.

The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world
and of our own lives
rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us,
and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day.
new joys,
new possibilities.

In your name we pray.
Amen.

 

— Steve Kelsey is missioner of the Greater Hartford Regional Ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. Over the years he has been privileged to minister primarily with smaller, more remote congregations in New England, Alaska, New York, and Northern Michigan.

The Ascension reveals God’s glory to us, Ascension Day (B) – 2006

May 26, 2006

Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

In the rural county of Norfolk, England, there is a town known as Little Walsingham. Inside the town’s church, there are a number of altars — one of them dedicated to the Feast of the Ascension. It’s an unremarkable shrine, just a small table and few candles, but above it is a sculpture of clouds, carved in wood. From the midst of these clouds, there are two feet protruding, looking rather like the remains of the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. As silly as it sounds, that’s the ascension: the resurrected Jesus is lifted up, and a cloud takes him out of sight.
This is the witness of holy scripture — of the very apostles themselves: while they were watching, Jesus was taken up, out of sight. They may very well have seen the bottoms of his sandals — as imagined at Little Walsingham — as he disappeared into the cloud. The Ascension of Jesus is one of only two recorded in sacred scripture, the other being that of Elijah. As improbable as it seems, the Ascension is a witnessed event, an actual phenomenon, a recorded fact — no metaphor here. As they were watching, Jesus is lifted up, and a cloud takes him out of their sight.

Imagine the testimony here, as if it were presented in a court of law today.

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“I do.”
“Name and occupation?”
“Luke, Apostle.”

There can be no more unimpeachable a witness, can there? And — in spite of all the places where the Bible makes no sense to us, or contradicts itself, or isn’t entirely clear about the details — here is testimony where the meaning is plain, and clear, and obvious. Jesus disappears into the clouds.

We can have faith that the Ascension actually happened.

So, why is the Ascension important to us? You may remember several years ago, when the weekly news magazines all featured lengthy stories about the resurrected Jesus. One of these gave details of a so-called “scientific” criticism of Easter story. The scientist alleges that Jesus — like Shakespeare’s Juliet — had not actually died, but was drugged. According to this theory, the three days’ in the tomb were just another “bad trip,” from which Jesus presumably awoke with a nasty hangover. There were, the scientist rightly points out, no witnesses to the resurrection; no one was there when Jesus started breathing again.

The scientist, of course, has a point; and it is a great mystery that so fundamental a tenet of our faith should be unproved. As unimaginably ridiculous as it sounds to us, the closest disciples and our Lord could have conspired in a great plot and deception — one that, if true, would shake the foundations of the church even today.

But could the apostles, in their sorrow and fear at the death of Jesus, and in their confusion at his many resurrection appearances — could they have imagined him flying? We do not have to imagine human flight: we have accomplished it. But, honestly, can we really believe that some uneducated, rural first-century peasants would make up something like this? As the kids say, “Not!”

Now, the Ascension is not somehow more important than the resurrection — nothing of the kind. Rather, as important as principles like incarnation and resurrection are to us as Christians, they are but glimpses of a total reality. The Christian mystery is of one piece: a seamless garment, of which the Ascension is but one aspect. Yet not even a lowly midwife tells of Jesus’ birth, and no one witnessed the moment of resurrection, but the Ascension is the aspect that people observed and documented and proved. The Ascension is important to us not because Jesus could only have entered into glory by this means — but because God chose to reveal that glory to those people of Galilee, who stood there, looking up in amazement.

The Ascension reveals God’s glory to us.

And what does the Ascension mean for us? How can we revel in the very moment we can prove we were abandoned by God? How can we celebrate that Jesus has been taken up, out of sight?

Hear now a story of an Englishman, who, when a very young boy, was taken to nursery school by his mother. Attentive to his anxiety about being abandoned, the boy’s mother leaned down, kissed her son, and said, “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving.” Each day, his mother would bid him farewell with those same words. Too young to recognize the paradox, the boy embraced his new existence and quickly adjusted to new and frightening surroundings. Day after day, and week after week, his mother bid the same farewell: “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving.”

The boy grew into adulthood, and as a mature man was confronted with the reality of having to place his mother in a nursing home. She — now elderly and frail, with advanced Alzheimer’s Disease — barely recognized him, often forgot to eat, and simply could no longer care for herself. As he departed from her, leaving her in her new and frightening surroundings, he remembered her words. He leaned down, kissed his mother, and said, “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving” — words his mother recognized even as she no longer recognized him. A tear appeared in her eye, as she clasped her hand and repeated, “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving.”

This is Jesus’ message on his departing. “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving” He is departing from us, out of our sight. We find ourselves in the new and frightening surroundings of this life, in a place where we are uncomfortable and often feel ill-equipped to carry on. And yet, we burn the paschal candle to indicate his closeness, we covenant ourselves to seek and serve him in all persons, we sing songs that tell of the wonders of his incarnation, we feel his very presence in bread and wine, and we hear the story of how — as the apostles were watching — he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. As Leo the Great wrote, “Even the blessed apostles, though they have been strengthened by so many miracles and instructed by so much teaching, took fright at the cruel suffering of the Lord’s passion and could not accept his resurrection without hesitation. Yet they made such progress through his ascension that they now found joy in what had terrified them before.”

The Ascension helps us find joy in what had terrified us before.

These words carry particular poignancy in our time as we take fright at the cruel suffering we see in the world around us. Can it be that we who have been strengthened by so many miracles and instructed by so much teaching — that we may make such progress that we can find joy in what now terrifies us?

We can find joy, if we but follow the example of those blessed apostles. We can find joy, if we allow ourselves to have faith in the working out of God’s plan of salvation. We can find joy, if we believe that Jesus did rise up and vanish into a haze. That this unimaginable event was recorded — by the most reliable witnesses ever — offers proof of our faith. This Ascensiontide, we can find joy in what terrifies us and stretch our imaginations to hear Jesus, as his feet disappear into the clouds, say, “Good bye, my love. No one is leaving.”

 

— The Rev. Barrie Bates is curate at the Church of the Ascension, New York City, a doctoral student in Liturgical Studies at Drew University, and author, with the Rev. Robert J. Schwarz, of “Reflections on Liturgy at Ground Zero: How Shall We Sing the Lord’s Song upon an Alien Soil?” in the Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling 59:4, Winter 2005. He is indebted to the Very Rev. Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, for inspiration for this sermon.