Summary: ASCENSION, YEAR A - Let us look with eyes of faith not eyes of flesh.
Do any of you remember the movie called “The Karate Kid”? It was a story about a teenage boy who must learn to defend himself against a gang of bullies in his new school.
So he turns to his Asian landlord to train him in the art of Karate, which means “open hand”. His landlord agrees and tells him to return the next morning for his first lesson. He shows up early the next day anticipating learning how to punch and to kick, but instead is assigned the job of painting his landlord’s fence. Up and Down, Up and Down, he is told he must paint. Frustrated he tells himself perhaps tomorrow I will learn how to fight. But the next day he is given the task of waxing and polishing his landlord’s cars. Circle clockwise with the right Circle counter-clockwise with the left, he is told he must wax. What does any of this have to do with learning how to fight, he wonders? He just doesn’t see the point of paint and waxing. So in frustration he gets angry with his teacher and tells him he must be crazy! In reply he is told to to move his hands as if he is waxing the car and when he does his teacher throws a punch and the young man blocks it. In that moment the young man perceives what he could not see before. He understands what he could not fathom previously. His teacher is not crazy, he is simply teaching the young man the basics to the martial arts. Before he can go on to greater things he must first learn the basics. In Luke chapter six Jesus gives us the basics to Kingdom living in a speech that has been called the sermon on the mount. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said,
“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.”
In light of what happened on 9/11, and all that has taken place since then, could you make such a public claim? So what is happening here? Is Jesus crazy? If it weren’t for his Resurrection, we might be prone to say, "yes." But God did raise Jesus from the dead; and so as a result, these sayings have a special power to reveal a divine reality that is all around us, but that we can not yet clearly see. These sayings describe and point to the Kingdom of Heaven, the realm where God rules and God’s saints live forever. This realm is not just an improvement on this world. It is a realm that is radically different. A realm that is rooted, grounded in the sovereign love of God. When we are rooted, grounded in the sovereign love of God, we are able to glimpse this new reality, a place where Jesus’ sayings are not crazy ramblings, but wonderfully good news. The writer of Ephesians encouraged this new reality with the prayer that, "You may see this inheritance with the eyes of your heart." It is the inheritance of the grace of God, where Christ reigns supreme, and where God’s people are filled with every blessing. With all the riches of God’s kingdom, here and in the here-after. And such enlightenment of our hearts is meant to transform us to see and live the kingdom of God in the here and now. As Pascal so beautifully expressed it, "The heart has reasons the mind knows not of." Hearts of faith see things that can only be a mystery to the mind, and utter confusion to the world. It is the heart that is able to see into that mystery, and it is for this reason that Paul said to the Ephesians,
"I pray that God will enlighten the eyes of your heart, so you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe."
We will all know that inheritance through faith, through the eyes of our heart. Yet as Lawrence Stookey wrote, "Faith needs visual aids." So God in His wisdom has provided images throughout the ages, to be of help to our faith, to help us understand the inheritance that is ours by faith. Faith that would live as Christ lives needs encouragement. We need to know that we are not alone when we finally catch the glimpse of glory, when we begin to understand the prayer “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I remember the day when I got my first glimpse of this glory. I was a young man in the navy and had been living for Christ for less then a year. Our carrier was in the North Atlantic and as an enlisted airman in an S3 Viking Sub-hunter and I was to fly that day though the weather was dark and stormy. As our aircraft lifted up through the cloud bank my eyes were glued to the little window at my side. Having left a dark-lite carrier after days upon days of dark and stormy weather my mood was dark and restless. Suddenly we broke through the cloud layer to find ourselves in the clear skies above. The unobstructed sun above bathed the clouds below in light so bright that they appeared to be whiter then snow. My mood immediately lifted and my spirit rose, until that is, it was time to return to the carrier. Once again with my face plastered to my window I watched as we descended once again into the darkness below. As we entered into the clouds I settled myself for a long and gradual descent. But then to my surprise the clouds parted and I saw that we had entered an open space between two layers of clouds, one above and one below and a gray filled darkness all around. That is until the plane began to make a turn and I beheld a break in the clouds above which allowed the sun to fire a beam of intense light down onto the clouds below. And where the light struck the dark clouds where transformed to reflect the white I had seen above. A small patch of white cloud in a world of darkness. As a young Christian I had been reading my Bible for only a few short months. But when I saw the light breaking through to the clouds below I knew I had read somewhere a reference to such a light. When we had finally made it back to the carrier and I was on my own I returned to my living quarters and got out my Bible. I looked up all the references I could find in the back that mentioned light until I found in John chapter one