A pastor’s journey into the glory of the ascension
By Bill Winn, Pastor of Grace Communion Hanover, Virginia
Nine years ago, I started coming to terms with my wrong-headed theology. I became ashamed of things I had believed and preached. Reading, like a man stranded on a desert island with only a library of Trinitarian thought to pass the time, I hungrily consumed every book I could get my hands on that focused on the Triune nature of God as the starting point for Trinitarian theology.
I learned that nothing is more central to the Christian message than the news that Jesus has brought humanity into objective union with the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Spirit, before creation, determined that the life they share in unfettered mutual other-centeredness would be shared with you, and with me, and with the entire human race. How raucous should be the celebration of our Inclusion!
This became clear when I began to see the importance of the life, death, and ascension of Jesus in a new light. I let go of the penal substitutionary atonement theory. I no longer saw God the Father as killing Jesus so he wouldn’t have to kill me. “Jesus is not the only one who loves me!” I thought. “The Father and the Holy Spirit love me, too!” I came to understand that inside the life, death, and ascension of Jesus—what we call his finished work—the dream of the Father to have mankind in union with the Godhead was accomplished.
Do you see it? Do you see the startling beauty of the purpose and plan of God for humanity? The life, death, and ascension of Jesus are towering over historical humanity from the very beginning beckoning us to wake up and see the beauty of our inclusion into the life of God. We are called to live in it, love in it, laugh and play in it. We are summoned to belief so we might taste and see that the Lord is good—so good that there is nothing you can do to change God’s disposition toward you. There is nothing you can do to make the Father, Son, and Spirit love you more or less. God already loves you with 100% of his being! All that you needed to fit and be adopted into the life of God has already been accomplished in the life, death, and ascension of Jesus.
I hope I have not agitated anyone too much. I left out the word resurrection to make the point that we ought to be equally alarmed when we hear people talk about the “life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.” We must never forget how important to us is his ascension—an event we have ignored for far too long. In the Ascension you and I and all of humanity have been seated with Jesus at the right hand of the Father. In the Ascension we have all gone home! We are with the Triune God both here in our present condition and at the same time seated at the throne of God. We need not divide Jesus to such an extent that we focus on one part of him or his ministry to the detriment of others, but this year during Ascension week let us be especially thankful that Jesus has brought us all home in his on-going Incarnation!