The Power of the Incarnation?
This past week we celebrated the Ascension of Jesus — an occasion that seems to have an almost mystical quality about it — and thus, as it straddles both the physical ‘earthly’ realm and the spiritual ‘heavenly’ realms, Christians sometimes fail to neatly categorise the event. Worse still, because it often falls between Sundays, it can easily be forgotten or glossed over.
The Ascension of Jesus is the last day of the incarnation, the coming of the second person of the Trinitarian godhead, in human form. Jesus was formed in a human womb and born as a human being. He lived, he died, and he was resurrected, and on this last day he bodily moved from earth into heaven, or from the physical world of the earth back into the eternal spirituality of God.
In this message I want us to gain a big picture; a perspective on the eternal, timeless nature of God, and the linear, time-limited nature of creation. God is outside of time, and it is useful to imagine (if we are able) the trinitarian community of God, that we call Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as always existing, simultaneously present at every moment in time. God always has been and will forever be. Humans, however, exist in linear time. Creation has a beginning and all creation exists in space time. We perceive time as being linear, moving from the past into the future. It is important to note that although we are space and time-limited creatures, that God, being timeless, is present at every moment of creation from its inception to eternity.
Now, I want you to imagine (if you are able) human lifespans. We appear as tiny blips on the radar of creation. We are born, we live, and we die. Countless billions of us, stretching back to when sentient humans first evolved; each one of us created in the image of God to be in this world, working with God for its restoration. We are all part of God’s creation and are therefore part of God’s bigger story in the world. Without going into detail about the fallen or broken nature of our world (I have done this elsewhere), through our godlike choices we put ourselves first and like a dog running through a field of burrs, pick up sin that sticks to us along the way. God, being pure and holy, cannot commune with humanity for holiness and sinfulness cannot occupy the same space, and so, this eternal, timeless God chooses a time and a place for the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity to be incarnate, and this took place two thousand years ago.
I do not know why God chose that specific time and place to be incarnate. Perhaps it was the first opportunity to spread God’s message to the world? The incarnation of Jesus the Christ was to make us clean and holy, to wash away our sin, so that God could commune with us, inspire us, encourage us, comfort us, and work with us towards the restoration of the world; and this part of God that is present in the world is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
The incarnation of Jesus had ramifications — and this is where we need to understand the eternal nature of God — for all humans that had ever existed and would ever exist could have their sins wiped away and importantly, commune with God. The Holy Spirit was present hovering over the first waters of creation, and has been present and working in and around the world, and importantly has always worked in the lives of those that welcome God; and this was made able by the incarnation of Jesus Christ, his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
The Psalmist writes, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
As we who are alive exist in linear time, we look forward to the day when all people will be resurrected, when heaven and earth fully overlap, and all creation is fully restored. As God is outside time, it is why we can say, with surety, that those that have died are with Christ. As far as they are concerned the resurrection happens the moment they close their eyes for that final time. And our guarantor in the here and now is the Holy Spirit, who we can know and experience in the very real present of our realities. As the Apostle Paul puts it, “[God] anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
As time progresses for us humans as part of history (His story) we are gaining a fuller revelation of who God is and what God is like. The exciting news is that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world, going ahead of us, able to encourage, inspire, and comfort us as we work with God towards the restoration of the world.
As Jesus ascended, so the Holy Spirit of God became present to us all, and this week, as I stood back and reflected on this bigger picture, I marvelled at the multitude of interconnecting strands where I can see God at work in my life and the lives of those around me; the lives that have been impacted with positivity and love; and the way in which our paths seem to cross to enable us to minister effectively to each other and with each other for good. I count myself blessed to be part of a wonderful church community and fellowship of friends, all connected to God through the incarnation of Christ, and guided by the Spirit. As the Psalmist writes, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Amen!