Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘The God dimension’
In these distressing times I draw comfort from envisioning the moment just before Jesus ascends into heaven. In it we move from the close-
However, there is a caution in the story of the ascension, which relates to a dualistic cosmology where heaven and earth are understood as separate realities and then allocated different values. In essence, the base nature of the material earth limits the abilities of those born in it to enter the divine heavens. The outcomes of this separation and assigning of value are described by Michael Beachy (after N.T. Wright, 2014) as the creation of “an escapist dream, to be held out as a carrot to make people better behaved”. This popular dualistic cosmology is critiqued in the lyrics of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” (1971), where he calls for a reimagining of a world beyond those harsh divides when he sings: “Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try, No hell below us, Above us, only sky, Imagine all the people, Livin’ for today …” The world Lennon pictures is beautiful and what he sings aptly critiques a misguided reading of the place Christ leaves from and ascends to. However, there are other ways to understand what Lennon is critiquing and the common divisive reading of heaven and earth (and hell). Beachy, for example, suggests that heaven is better understood as “an extra dimension, the God dimension of all our present reality”. Heaven and earth intersperse each other so allowing us to permeate and be permeated by both through this “extra” divine dimension alive in the present.
How might we start to feel this “God dimension” particularly in these challenging times? For while we know there is a divine overarching plan it can be hard to draw comfort from that when we are tossed around by constant change, and when we, our loved ones, and those around us are scared, sad and suffering. This can start by envisioning heaven as that “further dimension of our world, not a place far removed at one extreme of our world. It is all around us, glimpsed in a mystery in every Eucharist and every act of generous human love” (Beachy). With this in mind I have found it helpful to return to that moment after the resurrection and before ascension when Jesus, in Luke 24, introduces the idea of a preexistent plan with the words “when I was still with you”. Initially I was confused by these words because how can the Jesus who has just eaten with the apostles and shown them his crucifixion wounds, be present and not? Reflecting on this further I realised that the resurrected Jesus already inhabited the “further dimension” that Beachy speaks of. He is existing in a state of “between”, not corporeal or incorporeal, and therefore ever present.
For me there is a strong two-
So how might we gain an embodied sense of this other dimension, the divine in-
I pray that any fear or anxiety you may be feeling is eased by these words and God’s eternal presence in your life. Amen.
Beachy, Michael (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014). ‘Heaven and Power’: N.T. Wright on Jesus’ Ascension (Part 1 of 2). Retrieved from http://eerdword.com/2014/05/28/heaven-
Kabir (1914, 2004). Songs of Kabir (R. Tagore, Trans.). Mineola, NY: Dover Publications Inc.
von Kulmbach, Hans Süss (1513). The Ascension of Christ. Retrieved from MetMuseum (2000-
Dr Patricia Morgan