Unbind them. Let them go.

the Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 29th, 2020

Today’s readings are:
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45

If you don’t have a Bible in front of you, click here for these readings. 

           “Unbind him.”
            “Unbind him, and let him go.”

            These are some powerful words. And they’re powerful words in a powerful story. Really, I think this is up there in the top five best stories in the Bible. There are those deeply good and important stories – stories like Jesus’ birth and his Passion – and I think this one ranks up just below these.

            For here is a story of Jesus, the Messiah, who comes to the world to destroy death but who still weeps for his friend who has died. Here’s a story where the God, the author of Life and Love, meets death face to face; God, who will overcome death on the cross, stands before the grave of one he loved. For Jesus here is no armchair theologian, sitting back in a comfy chair, merely thinking about things like death and salvation; no, Jesus is standing before the grave, his hands the source of life and love, yet still with a body four days dead laid out before him. This is, in a way, one of the reasons why God came to us as Jesus Christ – so that he could know our grief firsthand, so that he could know what it feels like to lose someone that we love, firsthand.

            For in that one, small verse, the shortest of the Bible – Jesus began to weep – there is a world of grace in this tiny little verse, enough grace to fill a lifetime. Jesus, God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, knew and knows the pain of deep and soul-rending grief.

            This personal touch is so important, but often we overlook it. Because, I mean, God didn’t need to do this. God didn’t need to come down to this Earth, to walk through this dusty world, and to face the death of those he loved. He understood, he knew what death was and, as we hear so often in the Bible, he hears the cries of his people. They touch his heart.

            But walking with us, feeling that same pain that we feel, that does something else. It’s not just head knowledge, it’s not even just heart knowledge, it’s lived knowledge. And we know this, right? Some things you can’t teach; you’ve got to do them to know what they’re about. I faced this while learning how to teach. You can fill your head with a lot of important things – essential things – about how to teach, but there comes a day when you’ve got to put it into practice. Until you’ve got a student sitting before you, who’s dealing with something in his life that has nothing to do with you, who’s mind is in his parents fighting, or who’s still on the football field training for the state championship, or who’s grandma just died, and you need to harness that student’s attention and interest, until you have to do that, and still care for that student’s heart, you won’t really know how to teach.

            Now, God knew us in and out, but he took the extra step. He said something like, “Yeah, I know you. I’ve known you since birth, since before you were born, but I want to know you more. Because I want to love you more.” And so he was born as a child into this world, worked for those in pain and suffering, stood before the grave of someone he loved, and even died on the Cross, just so that he could know us, just so that he could save us.

            “Unbind him.”
            “Unbind him, and let him go.”

            This is at the heart of it, isn’t it? We are bound, we humans. We are bound to grief, to worry, to anxiety, to hatred, even to evil. And I don’t mean that we experience grief or worry or anything, but that we’re bound to it. Our sin is not that we experience grief or worry, or that hatred rises in our hearts. These are human, so very human reactions to a tough world. And we know that grief is not a sin because Jesus, who was without sin, wept at the death of his friend.

            No, grief is natural, and in many ways it is holy. We grieve because we love. Grieving for love honors that love. Worry and fear are also natural. We should certainly be concerned about our health, the health of our loved ones and the world. Anger is also natural, when it is not expressed to hurt and belittle others. The terror, and the sin, comes when we are bound to our grief, to our fear, and to our hatred. That’s when it begins to eat us up inside and to tear us apart.

            Have you ever been bound to something that you just can’t escape? It can be something physical, like food or alcohol or drugs, as with those who struggle with addictions. We can be bound to things mentally, too, where we can’t free ourselves from things that others have said to us, or done to us, or things that we ourselves have said or done. I know I often struggle with things I’ve said in the past, and I play them back in my head and beat myself up over them each time. I’ve heard people with addictions say that, when they were drinking or abusing drugs, they just couldn’t see life without them. Life was a dark circle, moving in and out of self-hatred and guilt. They were caught, they were trapped. They were bound.

            And Jesus says, “Unbind him” and “let him go.” And while he says this, here, about Lazarus and his funeral wrappings, he also says this to us, today, as well. Have you ever heard this word from God? Have you ever experienced it? Have you ever looked at something that you were once bound to and known that you were free? Have you ever looked back at something that you’ve regretted and known, deep down, that that’s just not you anymore? Have you ever been healed from grief, from abuse, from hatred or pain or suffering? This healing, this lifting of us up and out and beyond is the healing work of Jesus Christ, saying to our sin and the sin done to us, “Fall away, dark fetters. You have no power here.”

            I am being a bit vague here, I know. And that’s because that sin we were bound up with and that we’re still bound up with is personal. I could tell you a story about something awful I’ve said or done, but that’s my story. I could tell you about someone I know who was addicted to drugs or alcohol (and I know many) but who is now clean and clear, back with their family, breathing life and living good, honest lives – but those aren’t my stories, they’re the stories of others. And what about you? What stories do you have, where you’ve been bound but are now free? What shackles and fetters are you binding your own heart that you can give to the Lord to be healed? These are personal stories, but stories are made to be told. Spend time this week, even today, praying with those stories, and maybe find someone trustworthy and loving to whom you can share them.

            But in all things, remember this: Jesus came not to just hang out with us for a while, but to set us free. Jesus came – God came to us chains and fetters and break them asunder. And those chains are not only our sin or the sin done to us, but Death itself. Death, which seems the end, is not the end, for Jesus was born for us, lived for us, died for us, and was raised for us, all to snap death in two, break it apart, and cast it away. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt – oh how it hurts. But God wept, too, over the death of his friend, and then he raised his voice and called him forth alive again. So too does God weep for us, then will he raise his voice on high and call out with a voice as clear as sunshine: Arise my beloved! It is time for you to come home!

Love and in a World of Ashes

Ash Wednesday
March 26th

Today’s readings are:
Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Click here to access these readings.

        I want Easter. I want it to be Easter. I want the colored eggs, the little green grass made of plastic. I want pastel colors. I want white vestments and alleluias and that bright, spring sunshine to be inside the church as much as it is outside. I want Easter, when Jesus is alive and the whole world is changed. I want an empty tomb, I want the flaming tongues of Pentecost, I want Jesus alive and well and joyful.

        But here we are. It is Ash Wednesday. We have over a month of Lent before us, we have over a month of Lent between us and that open tomb, that Jesus alive and joyful and that hope of the world after his Resurrection. And today, as Lent begins, we do not have the bright spring-white vestments of Easter but the dark, purple, penitential ones of Lent.

        We are an Easter people, aren’t we? Aren’t we? We’re a people who live in the light of the Resurrection, a people who live in a world where death has died, where hope unlooked for because it’s just too good to be true, where that hope and that love have thrown open the gates of death, shattered the bonds of sin and darkness, and led us into a life of light and life. We are an Easter people, so what are we doing with the soot of death upon our foreheads?

        I’ve preached lately on why Lent is a good and healthy thing. I’ve preached about how we need to take stock of our relationship with God. And we do this not because we’re scared of getting into trouble or because, as if God were a strict teacher and is going to send a bad report card home to an equally strict parent. No, for, again, we are an Easter people: our relationship with God is one of love, that is founded and fashioned out of love. And relationships founded on love are endlessly deep. Lent is the time when we explore that love, see how we can enter into that love more fully, more openly, so that we become that love ourselves. Goodness, could you imagine becoming love? That’s what we’re called to. That’s what we’re called to as Christians. To become love.

        Yes, we are an Easter people, but we are living in an Ash Wednesday world. Because of Jesus Christ, death no longer has dominion over us. We are free from it, free from the binds of death; but death still hurts. Darkness is still a cloud that confuses us and turns our hearts to worry, anxiety, and hatred. We humans still hate those who are different than us, sling ugly words at those we don’t understand. We still beat people and abuse people emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. And there are people in this world who hate themselves and see only darkness before them. We live in a hard world.

        And it’s good to remember this, not because we need to hate the world, too, or because we need to cut ourselves loose and just look forward to the joys of heaven, to grin and bear the pain of the world because the afterlife’ll be worth it. No, we need to look at the hard, ugly, hateful world, and that hart, ugly, hateful world inside of ourselves, because Jesus Christ came not to condemn the world, but to save it, to tell you that all things, all things, are worthy of the love of Christ. You are loved, not because God forgets your sin for a while but because God loves you. All of you, every – last – bit.

        The world needs to hear this. People need to hear this. Have you ever had the privilege to tell someone, someone who thought themselves unworthy and forgotten, that they are in fact precious and beloved of God? It is a grace and an honor to do so. It is a gift. And you know what, it is also the mission of all Christians, no matter what creed or denomination, to do this: to enter into the darkness, to even the darkest parts of human existence, be it in the world around us or in our own hearts, and to dispel that darkness with love. And I don’t mean some greeting card love, but a love that is strong and that looks death and despair in the face and says, “No, you are nothing against the light of this love.” For that love is true reality; for God is love.

        And so today, Ash Wednesday, we look death in the face. And part of looking death in the face is realizing that it is still painful, and that for some, that pain is deep and it is real. But we look death in the face because we have already looked Life in the face, and we know it to be a person, a person of love, and we know him to be stronger than death.

        I could end here, but I want to say one more thing. I hope that these words, and this service, has grounded you in the Love and Life that is past death. I hope that our time here on Ash Wednesday has filled you with a renewed purpose, so that you will enter into a holy Lent and look forward to the Joy of Easter. That may be the case for some of you, but it might not be for others. Looking death in the face is hard, and so I want to say: you are not alone. We do not look death in the face alone as individuals but as the Church. If looking at death has stung you, or hurt your, or if you are afraid, remember that we are here for you, both I as your priest and us as your fellow siblings in God. Nor are we alone, for God himself has looked death in the face from the cross. And he stands now among us as our brother Jesus, in whose hands is real bread, and in whose voice is the salvation of all.

God’s Name

the First Sunday after Christmas
26 December 2019

Today’s readings are:
Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

Click here to access these readings.

        Back when I was interviewing for the job as your priest, someone on the BAC (I think it was Pete, maybe John) asked me, “Do you prefer to be called ‘father’ or ‘reverend’?” This is something that people talked about at seminary quite a bit. Everyone had a preference, and everyone had a different reason why. Jesus said not to call anyone ‘father’ but your Father in Heaven, but ‘reverend’ comes from ‘reverence’, and none of us for sure didn’t want anyone to reverence us.

        The women in seminary had an even more difficult choice: few of them wanted to be called ‘mother’, but not all of them liked ‘reverend.’ Some of them decided not to have a title at all and to just go with their first names, while others wanted to root themselves in tradition. One woman I knew, who graduated a year after me, asks people to call her “Father Jane.” Everyone’s different.

        And so when Pete or John asked me this question, with all the BAC around, I had these discussions running around my head. I personally prefer ‘father’ because of it’s traditional, but I knew there were folks out there who would balk at the title. And so I did what I usually did as a teacher when a student asked me a difficult question: I reflected. “What do you want to call me?” I asked. I was eventually pressed into making a choice, but I used the question, as I’ll use it now, as a teaching moment. It’s very nice to know what I want to be called, and very important, I think, but I think it’s also important to know what you want to call me. It tells me what you see a priest as and what you need in a priest.

        What you call someone says a lot about what you need and who you are. I remember, once, a student emailed me to tell me that he was dropping my class. Normally, students would address me as ‘Tim’ or ‘Mr. Hannon’, and if they were asking for a favor, they’d even try ‘Dr. Hannon’, even though I told them I didn’t have a PhD. But this student, thinking, perhaps, that he was dropping the class, so why bother, addressed me as “Tim-o”. And the email that he wrote, and the reasons he gave for dropping my class, continued this rather relaxed, up-front, and disrespectful air. Helene and I, on the other hand, try our best to have Gwendolyn address you all with ‘mister’ or ‘misses’ in front of your names, not only because we want her to show you respect, but because using these titles helps Gwendolyn respect other people (at least we hope

so!).

        Now, St. Paul does something very interesting with titles in our letter to the Galatians. But before we get to the Bible, I want to ask you all a question: how do you address God? Now this might change depending on how you’re praying. At least that’s how I work. If I need something, or if I want something (which are pretty different, even though we sometimes forget that they are), I make sure I’m very polite. “Oh, dear God, loving and giving Lord, God who does wonders and loves those who are in trouble, please hear my prayer.” I lay it on thick, for sometimes I forget that God isn’t like us humans who, now and again, need a bit of buttering up. And if it’s thanksgivings, I’m usually a bit shorter. “Thanks God” or “Thank you Jesus.” The more I need, the more long-winded I get, and this says more about me than about God. I wonder if you’re similar.

        But jokes aside, how do you address God? Or, in your heart of hearts, how do you think of God? Who is God to you? Is God someone you feel you have to placate, who you have to persuade, you need to cajole, or maybe even someone you have to bribe? If you only do this for me, God, I’ll make sure to pray every day, or donate more to church, or something similar?  Is God someone you have to address like a lawyer addressing a court, choosing your words carefully and making sure that you ask exactly what you want, lest God misunderstand you or trick you and give you something you really don’t want or that you just can’t handle?

        In the light of day, on a nice morning here in church, maybe not, but when things get dark, many of us feel that God is a lot like a lawyer or a judge or, even, a jailer. We can say that God is a god of love, but in the back of our heads we often wonder if that love is a hard love. When we pray, and those prayers aren’t answered, we can wonder that, maybe, we prayed wrong, or that we’re not good enough for that prayer to be answered, or that because of our sin God is mad at us and won’t listen, even if we pray from the depths of our hearts. And if you have never felt this way, then you are blessed; but know that there are many who we serve who do experience God this way. They feel beaten up by a god who seems to care more about perfection than grace.

        And this is why it is so amazing that the way St. Paul talks about addressing God is to use the word “Abba.”  Now, ‘abba’ means something a bit more familiar than “Father” but also a bit more formal than “Daddy”; something like “Dad”, but more like “my dad” or “my father.” And Paul writes this not only because he wants his readers, and you yourself, to understand something very important about God, but because he wants you to know something very important about you yourself and yourselves. You are children of God. You’re not slaves, not servants, not defendants in a court or anything like that, but children. You are beloved children.

        Now, this doesn’t mean that God will be a doting parent, or that, because you’re children of God, God’ll overlook things like you wreaking his car or something. As C.S. Lewis wrote, God isn’t a tired old grandfather who just likes to sit back and watching kids have fun, or who will buy his grandkids candy behind their parents back. No, God is a father, a parent, and so there are some chores to do, and when we do wrong we need to seek reconciliation.

        When we say that we are children of God, we mean that we share the same relationship with God that the Son has, that Jesus had and has even now. And while that relationship didn’t mean that Jesus would have an easy life, it did mean that there would be a light that is instilled in us that is as deep as Creation. That Life that Jesus had while healing, while preaching, while teaching, while going around all throughout the land and being with the people; and that Life that, even when it was crucified, could raise again; and that Life that was so mighty and so beautiful and so True that it pulled up each and every one of us  towards heaven with it, and not just you and me but the whole of Creation; that Life lives within us now. That Hope, that Life, that eternal Life that Jesus had and has, that is something for us all, not as something given into our hands like a present on Christmas but something born inside of us, a relationship of love that can outlast the stars themselves.

        And now I will ask you the same question I asked Tuesday night because I really want you to think about it: what will you do with this Life? You have been given a gift, and you are now a Child of God Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. You have a life within you that has defied empires and that has calmed the mightiest storms of doubt and grief. You have the same heart that St. Francis did when he preached to the birds, and you have the same heart that St. Thomas had when he gave his life to study. And you have the same heart that has caused countless generations of Christians to live good, honest, quiet lives of love, of hope, and of grace. You have that life, for Jesus Christ has been born within your heart this Christmas, and at your baptism, and every time you join in the Eucharist, and every single time you turn, again, from sin and hatred to the loving light of God. How will you live, knowing that you are a Son or Daughter of God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?

 

 

 

Stuff and God

the 11th day after Pentecost
Proper 16
August 25ht, 2019

The readings for today are:
Isaiah 58:9b-14
Psalm 103:1-8
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

Click here to access these readings.

            Have you ever heard of the liturgical workout? No, it’s not what Episcopalians do when they go to the gym. It’s what we do right here in our church nave. It’s often said that we Episcopalians, and many others who worship God liturgically, are always standing up and sitting down. And you might not notice this if you’ve worshipped this way for a long time. It all seems, to us, pretty simple. We sit down for readings – unless it’s the gospel reading, then we stand. We also stand for the Nicene Creed, but then we sit back down for the Prayers of the People. And when it comes time for the Eucharist, some people stand and some people sit (both are just fine, by the way). And some people, if their piety is just right, will kneel instead. We are always getting up but then sitting back down.

       And we don’t do all this just because it’s fun to stand up and sit down all the time. When we pray liturgically, we don’t just pray with the voice but with all the senses and the whole body together. And each of these different ways we pray – they mean something. Why do we stand at the gospel? It’s because we are people of Jesus Christ, people of the Gospel, and we stand to show respect to the words of our Savior. Why do we sit or kneel at confession? It’s because in our confession we are humbling ourselves before God. Nor are we just saying, “God, I’m sorry”, but using our whole body, our knees and our shoulders and our hands and our voices to confess our sins to God. And why? Because we feel that doing so helps us come to a fuller realization of our sins and mistakes and, hopefully, leads us to an amendment of life. Physically sitting or kneeling, we believe, helps that process, as does, when we’ve been absolved, standing up helps us enter more fully into God’s mercy, grace, and love.

       There’s a kind of “stuff-ness” to liturgical worship, isn’t there? There’s a lot of stuff, a lot of physical things that you can touch or things that we do. We’re always standing or sitting, bowing and crossing ourselves, or using water or oil or chrism or bread and wine. We have chalices and patents, bells in towers and hand-bells that acolytes can ring through the whole Eucharistic prayer (not that this happened recently…). Our priests wear three layers of clothes and we like holding hymnals better than using projectors. We like stuff – things we can reach out to and touch, things we can hold, things that help us reach out and touch God and one another in love.

       But then comes the letter to the Hebrews. The author seems to be saying something different here. He writes that, when we come to God, we come to something that you can’t touch. Being with God isn’t like holding onto stuff like bread or a book, but like a blazing fire, something that is there and that you can see but that you can’t reach out and hold in the palm of your hands. Or like darkness or gloom, or the raging of a tempest, or even just the sound of a trumpet. These things move us, or allow us to see, or send us running, but no matter how much they affect us we can’t hold them. You can’t put God a box or a nice pretty bag. We can learn about and be brought to God through things, through stuff, through God’s Creation; but at the same time, it’s important to remember that God isn’t Creation. God is more than this world. God isn’t tangible, he’s not what we can see on the surface of things. God is more than that.

       So, does that mean that we’re wrong to like all this stuff in our worship? If God is something that we can’t touch, if God is like the sound of a trumpet, or the blaze of a fire, or darkness and light, things we can’t hold, then is it okay to have so much stuff here in church that we can hold? Well, yes, it is. This is actually an old question for us Christians, one that folks were talking about over a thousand years ago. You see, back in the 7 and 8 hundreds, people were worried and wondering: should we really be making art that depicts God? Should we paint pictures of God or build statues of him and his saints? People were, of course, already doing this, and doing it quite a bit, but theologians were wondering if it was such a good idea. They were worried that people would see those pictures and statues and think, well, here’s God right here – and then worship the pictures and statues and forget about the true God. In other words, they asked: doesn’t all this stuff – these images, these statues, these bits of our worship that are just things – doesn’t all this stuff get in the way of worshipping God?

       And the answer from a thousand years ago is this: no. Keep your art and love your art. Keep all that stuff in your churches. And they said this not because they just really liked art but because of how God saved humanity in Jesus Christ. God did not come down as some vague spirit to save us. God did not just think us into salvation. And God didn’t just give us some great, intelligent, wise person to lead us into a better way of life. No, God came down to us as Jesus Christ – as St. Paul writes in Philippians: God humbled himself to be with us, to walk on this earth with us, to kick around in the dust and to lift us from the dust, all to save us. God became that dust, entered into and became that dust that we are, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, so that that dust, so that we who are dust, could walk in eternal life.

       But the essence of things, the truth of things, is not in the dust, but in the one who became dust, who humbled himself, even to death on the cross. All this stuff here in church is beautiful and joyful and so very helpful to our lives in God, and while these things aren’t God, we shouldn’t just turn from them all to a form of worship that is somehow more pure because there are fewer things in the room. For in being Incarnated into this world, God said to a bit of metal with a rope attached to it (a bell): you are worthy to sing my praises. And God said to some sheep wool and probably a bit of plastic fabric (a chasuble): you are worthy to stand at my altar. And God said to us, who are dust, and to dust shall we return: you are worthy to shine with the same light as that of my Son, Jesus Christ. Because through all of it the light of Jesus Christ, which is like a burning flame lighting our path, or the sound of a trumpet calling us home, through all of it shines the holiness of Jesus Christ.

Ascension Day

Ascension Day

Today’s readings are:
Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47 or 93
Ephesians 1:15-23
Luke 24:44-53

Click here to access these readings.

Today is the Feast of Ascension Day.  It’s one of the big days of the Church.  Another way to say this is that it’s one of the Principle Feasts, alongside Easter, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas, and Epiphany.  Principal Feasts are the holiest of holy days, and we celebrate them with special acts of devotion, prayer, and joy.  There’s a world-wide effort, actually, to encourage pray all across the Church on these ten days between Ascension and Pentecost.  I’ve posted a few of these on our Facebook page, but you can also find the main page here.

Ascension Day looks to the passages in Luke and Acts listed above, where, following his Resurrection and teaching the disciples, Jesus ascends bodily to be with God in Heaven.  There’s a lot of great art throughout the history of the Church that depicts this event.  There is also a chapel dedicated to the ascension in the church of Our Lady of Walsingham in England.  Inside the chapel, if you look up, you’ll see a set of feet (Jesus’) ascending through the ceiling.  You can see this picture above.

Now, Ascension Day (and images like feet sticking through the ceiling) might seem like a strange or really very particular sort of thing to celebrate.  Jesus’ ascension may appear to be another bit of theological nit-picking much like the old medieval discussion of how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.  Whether Jesus died again after the Resurrection, or wandered away to some other country, or rose bodily to Heaven, may not seem to matter all that much.  Jesus is with us, and isn’t that alone important?  But I think that the ascension is one of the really important parts of the story of Jesus, and it’s a part of the story that touches us closely.

Let me take a step back for a moment and tell a story.  After my wife and I had our first child, a friend of ours in seminary gave us a little book called “Holding your Newborn Child.”  It was a set of meditations on bits of Scripture and prayers that the Church holds dear.  Nor was it all a bunch of vague philosophizing, but were centered on the new life that we held in our arms.  

And I remember, very well, how real that life was.  As an infant, my daughter wouldn’t sleep unless she was held, and so my wife and I traded off holding her all through the night.  We were exhausted, but it also bound us with our daughter in a really special and amazing way.  During those long nights, I remember praying in a way that I had never prayed before.  I had always had worries, sure, and been anxious or joyful or hopeful about the future, but in holding that young baby, just a few days old, I was centered in my prayers so much on the present moments of grace.  The reality of this child, this small weight of life in my arms, and my love for her, was my prayer.  I found that I had no words to pray other than, very simply, to hold my daughter.

And just like a newborn, Jesus is not just some vague “figure” or spiritual force that exists in our lives.  Jesus is not just a hope, not just a dream, nor just some “energy” that we direct with our prayers.  Jesus is real, and Jesus is alive.  And Jesus is alive not as a spirit, but in his body as well.  And that brings us, who are both bodies and souls, so much closer to him.  It reminds us that our bodies matter, that our care for Creation matters, and that our lives matter.  Christians can’t just look to the future when all will be made right; we must also look to what is present, to the life that is in our hands and indeed all around us.  And we are also reminded that God holds us, for we are to him his beloved children.  God’s real arms, as Jesus Christ, are holding us, even now, in our grief, raising us up in our sorrow, and celebrating with us in our joy.  God is truly, truly present.

There are a lot of parts of our Church and our Christian lives together that is about stuff.  On Sunday we gather together in a single place, kneel or stand with one another, and join together in the Eucharist, which is the eating of real bread and the drinking of real wine.  And when we go out from our worship into the world, we work with our hands and our feet, our voices and our bodies, to do the work of God.  And God is present in each of them, both bodily and spiritually, especially in the Eucharist but also in our good work as Christians. 

In the end, Ascension Day reminds us that God is real, and not in some “purer” way that hates the world and is ashamed of bodies.  No, on Ascension Day we remember that Jesus Christ is, even now, in bodily form, but in the most perfect bodily form.  And it is this form to which we will one day go ourselves, and which all the world, in the New Heaven and the New Earth, will one day be.  And it is a further emphasis of the promise that God is with us, always and forever.