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Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is taken up to his Father in heaven. We tend to read the Ascension along essentially Enlightenment lines rather than biblical lines—and that causes a good deal of mischief. Enlightenment thinkers introduced a two-tier understanding of heaven and earth. They held that God exists, but that he lives in a distant realm called heaven, where he looks at the human project moving along, pretty much on its own steam, on earth.

On this Enlightenment reading, the Ascension means that Jesus goes up, up, and away, off to a distant and finally irrelevant place. But the biblical point is this: Jesus has gone to heaven so as to direct operations more fully here on earth. That’s why we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus has not gone up, up, and away, but rather—if I can put it this way—more deeply into our world. He has gone to a dimension that transcends but impinges upon our universe.