Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens, so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell….
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is the Feast of our Lord’s ascension into heaven, where he took his seat at the right hand of the Father and remains even still until that day when he comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We are now forty days after Easter, which is a fitting date for the Feast of the Ascension, as we read in Acts 1 that Jesus ascended forty days after he rose again. Pentecost Sunday, the feast that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church, will arrive fifty days after Easter -- ten days from now. So that gives you the bearings of where we’re at in the Church Year.
But the fact that Ascension Day precedes the Feast of Pentecost is not just an accident of the schedule, but rather reminds us that it is the event of Christ’s ascension into heaven that makes Pentecost possible. We don’t get to where we are now -- we don’t even get to be the Church -- until Christ takes his rightful place at the right hand of the Father. Which makes it somewhat odd that the ascension is often little more than an afterthought in many of our minds. We know about Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday, for sure, and we probably appreciate the significance of Pentecost too. But the Ascension, if we even notice it at all, is likely just this random Thursday in the middle of Eastertide -- and as we all know, Episcopalians don’t usually come to church on Thursdays. So my guess is that perhaps the most that we could say about the ascension is simply that it happened -- like we do each time we say the Creed together. But to speak about why the ascension matters -- about what makes it significant -- would probably escape us.
Nevertheless, despite our relative lack of familiarity with our Lord’s ascension, the Christian Faith has always insisted that this event is of paramount importance. The ascension is an event that is no less essential to the Gospel and our salvation than the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that preceded it. So, let’s start by getting a few things straight about this mysterious ascension of our Lord, before wrapping up with some thoughts about what difference it makes for us.
The first and most important thing to grasp about the ascension is that it was Christ’s whole person -- body and soul -- that was taken up into heaven. Once Christ entered into the world as a human being in his incarnation, he united human nature to himself forever. And what God has joined together, no one can separate. Christ remains fully God and fully human, even now, even after his departure from the world. So his ascension was not like he “took off his human suit” and went back to just being a pure spirit. It wasn’t like those old cartoons where Wile E. Coyote seems to have finally succumbed to yet another one of his fatal accidents and a slightly transparent version of himself floats out of his lifeless body. For one thing, unlike Wile E. Coyote, Christ is alive when he ascends, for he had already risen from the dead. But because he is alive, Christ ascends bodily into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.
Now, by itself, this doesn’t really simplify a whole lot, because if Christ ascends, body and soul, into heaven, then there are all sorts of questions that come up that have engaged theologians for millenia. Like, where exactly is Christ if Christ still possesses his human body? Bodies, as we know, typically exist in space and time, so Jesus has to be somewhere. But as with everything that has to do with Christ, the ascension is an unfathomable mystery. Our words and our imaginations fail to fully describe what’s going on with Jesus, because while his humanity provides us with something to describe -- a human being that could eat and drink, speak and touch, like the rest of us -- the identity of who this human being is is one that can only be recognized by faith. It is a divine identity: Jesus is the Son of God. While we can only use our human words to get at what’s going on with Jesus, those words will always fall short. So, with the ascension, we can’t help but use our ordinary metaphors of up and down, here and there, to describe this event.
Now, in our normal parlance, if we say that something has “ascended,” we usually mean that it has gone from Point A to Point B. The hot air balloon was on the ground, but now it’s ascended into the sky. Here, the ground and the sky are both locations within our world, and the “ascension” is how we describe the hot air balloon’s movement between them. And when it comes to Christ’s ascension, this is the vocabulary we have to work with. But the problem is that, properly understood, our Lord’s ascension is not a movement between two places within the world, but the movement from one world to another world altogether. As one writer put it, Jesus “moves, not upwards in space, but from the old creation to the new” . His ascension is not his entrance into “an already existing place,” but rather represents “the creation of a new one” . To be clear, this doesn’t mean that our Gospel reading’s account of the ascension is false -- we receive it as truth that Jesus really “was carried up into heaven,” as it says. Instead, the point of insisting that Christ ascends into a new creation altogether -- rather than into another just another spot somewhere else -- is to recognize that the ascension is a transformative event. As that writer continues:
The place to which Jesus goes in his ascension...is really a place, yet it is not one to which we can refer on our own terms…. It is not somewhere in this world...nor yet is it somewhere in addition to this world, an ‘outside’ to which one escapes. Rather it exists by virtue of the transformation...of this world in the Spirit. 
In other words, Jesus ascends in glory into an entirely new frontier. He quite literally goes where no human being had ever gone before. Because his ascension is a bodily ascension, Christ takes human nature with him and thereby sets humanity within the life and love of the Trinity . Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is carried up into glory so that he can one day bring many sons to glory with him (Hebrews 2:10). And it is precisely his ascended humanity that makes our entrance into God’s presence possible.
This brings us to why the ascension of our Lord matters for us today. So much could be said here, but I’ll keep it simple and leave you with this. The point of the ascension is that it is the vivid revelation that “Jesus’ destiny is our destiny” . Christ goes to the right hand of the Father in order to prepare a place for us. But this place that he has prepared for us is ultimately nothing other than himself, his body in which we have been united by adoption and grace. The ascension shows us where we’re headed and what is in store for us: it shows us that the destiny of every Christian is deification -- that is, to be made like God -- for to be brought into the presence of God is just what deification means . To see God as he is is to become like he is (1 John 3:2). In short, The ascension is the “basis for that which he intends ultimately to do with and for us” .
So, to close, what does this glorious event mean for us in the meantime, in this present life in which we are still waiting for our own entrance into the life of the Triune God? Christ may have entered into the new creation already, but the old creation is still in the process of being transformed and redeemed. This means that this mysterious life that Christ enjoys in heaven “can be referred to only indirectly” . Like the identity of who Jesus is, the ascended life of Christ “can be recognized only by faith, and can be touched only sacramentally” . And it’s that last point -- that our present experience of Christ’s life can only be had through the sacraments -- that brings the ascension closest to home. For the body and blood of Christ that we partake of in the eucharist are the body and blood of the ascended Christ, the Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father. When we confess our belief that Christ is really present to us at the altar, we are not saying that Christ is coming down to be with us so much as that we are being brought up to be with him. Of course, his presence is veiled from our present sight -- the fact that we are still waiting for our full encounter of him is the reason why our present encounter is sacramental. To approach the altar to receive him is an act of hope, because our approach to the altar is our approach to where we ultimately desire to be for eternity. So, when we come to receive the body and blood of our Lord, we are coming “with confidence” to “draw near to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). And though at the moment we can only draw near by faith, seeing only through a mirror dimly, it is the throne of grace all the same. And the one who sits on such a throne is the risen and ascended Lord of all creation. He is there so that we can join him, starting now.
 Douglas Farrow. Ascension Theology. 46.
 Ibid., 46.
 Ibid., 47.
 Ibid., 36.
 Ibid., 10.
 Ibid., 36
 Ibid., 44.
 Ibid., 47.
 Ibid., 47.