The Feast of the Ascension falls this week, when, forty days after the resurrection, Jesus (appropriately enough) ascended into heaven. Last year, some of my colleagues and I put together a video telling an apocryphal story as written by the Rev. Dr. Lori Walke that dates back (more or less) to the Desert Fathers. It was a fun project and I’d like to share the story again.
The Gospels tell us in a few different ways the story of the ascension of Jesus, the story of his rising to higher ground. The story even spills into the Book of Acts. Perhaps you cannot recall one of the specific versions, so let me refresh your memory. Now, I don’t know if this is exactly how it happened, but I know that this story is true.
After Jesus died, he began appearing to his friends. This, of course, usually happened when a group of them got together to talk about him – retelling his jokes and remembering what Jesus taught them. On this particular day, a really large crowd of his friends had gathered, and what do you know, Jesus showed up, too. He began to teach them, saying, “Resist! Pray for enemies! Turn the other cheek! Go the extra mile! And of course, love one another. Every single other.”
When he had said all this, a voice from the heaven boom, “ASCEND!” And so, he did. He spread out his arms, looked up to heaven with a smile, and slowly began to rise.
The disciples watched, stunned, and suddenly, Mary, realizing what was happening, gave a shout, backed up to get a running start, and LEAPT up to grab Jesus’s ankle. “I’m coming too!” she cried. John, seeing what was happening, jumped up and grabbed Jesus’ OTHER ankle. Jesus, slightly concerned, stopped and looked down at them and then back up to heaven and asked: “God, what do I do?” And God said, “ASCEND!” And so, all together, holding on to one another, lifting each other up, they all began to rise.
Now the other disciples, seeing Mary and John rising with Jesus, they wanted to go, too, so suddenly all of Jesus’ friends are jumping and grabbing onto their ankles, and Mary and John and Jesus reached out to pull them up until there was a small pyramid of people swinging from each other in the sky. A little alarmed, Jesus asked again, “What do I do, God?” Again the voice from heaven BOOMED, “ASCEND!” And all together, holding on to one another, lifting each other up, they all began to rise.
Then people from all over, folks who had seen Jesus’ miracles or heard him preach, people who had seen the friends of Jesus feed the hungry and show kindness, they began to jump up and grab onto the lower most disciples, and slowly, all together, holding on to one another, lifting each other up, they all began to rise.
But a little girl way at the bottom shouted, “Stop, wait! I want to bring my dog!” And Jesus, WAY up at the top yells back down, “Try to hurry – I don’t know how this works!”
So the little girl, still scanning the horizon, reached out and grabbed a tree and the branch held on tight. Everyone kept rising and the tree began to rise too, and it looked like the tree would be uprooted, but the tree curled its toes and held on tight to the earth. And the earth started to rise, too, but it reached out to the sea, and the sea grabbed hold with its waves and HELD ON tight and no one let go and slowly, all together, holding on to one another, lifting each other up, the whole world was drawn closer to God.