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by Kate Kooyman
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1)
My kids have been trading Pokemon cards lately (insert the emoji where I am poking my eyes out), and my seven-year old is winning at the negotiation game. Unsurprisingly, his brother (who can’t yet read), isn’t quite as adept at assessing the relative value of what he holds. He knows which pictures he likes to look at, which is mostly his rubric for which cards he wants to keep.
My older son has power — he can read, he can add point values, he has friends who are teaching him the trading strategy. My younger son is a bit vulnerable when it comes to the trading of Pokemon.
We had to have a talk the other day about this — about taking advantage of those who are weaker than you. As a mom who is raising future white men, it’s pretty important to me that we get this concept right.
Today is Ascension Day, forty days after the resurrection of Christ. The day that the church remembers Jesus’s rising to the heavenly realm to sit at the right hand of God. Ascension is the day we remember that the crucified one has risen to power.
And this power is of a certain kind. It is the “protector of widows,” a leader who “leads out the prisoners to prosperity” (Psalm 68). Walter Brueggeman (who has, over and over, reminded me why I am a Christian), says this of the ascension in his book Mandate to Difference:
“It turns out that the one who has ascended into power is not transcendent in remoteness, is not splendid in indifference, but is deeply in touch with the reality of the earth where money and power and social leverage and differentiation of gender, race, and class leave some dangerously exposed. This father-God to whom we pray “our father” rides the clouds not as a joy-rider, but rather to be in a position to see and to know and to care and to intervene and to feed and to heal and to forgive and to reconcile and to liberate. It turns out that ascension, whereby God is celebrated in power, is a claim that the earth is ordered differently because of the one who governs it.”
We live in a time when power seems to create an antipathy — or even an aggression toward — “the least of these.” Power tells poor people to quit complaining about their medical bills if they also have iPhones. Power calls poverty a “state of mind,” and considers government programs aiming at equity to be handouts that reward bad behavior. Power creates a sense of exceptionalism, “body-slamming” those who seem to disagree or ask too many questions. Power sits down and orders a nice breakfast, wipes its mouth with a napkin, and slaps handcuffs on the ones who offered the meal.
Today, Ascension Day, is a day when we celebrate the power that Jesus Christ reveals — the true power of “the least of these.” The power of those made weak. Of those under threat of death. Of the ones forced into poverty. Of those pushed to the margins. Because Christ has risen in power, we know that creation has actually been ordered in such a way that the first shall be last.
May those of us with strength and power according to the rules of this world remind ourselves today that the closer we are to those who are being cast aside, the closer we are to the one who has saved the world.