We’re nearing the end of Eastertide, moving toward Pentecost and then Ordinary Time.
Yesterday I was privileged to look at a statement of faith prepared for a presbytery this week as they look to move the person from inquirer to candidate for ordination (This is presby-speak. Sorry.) The statement had the completely orthodox assertion along the lines of “Christ was born, lived, died, rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of God.”
There was a praise song popular in the 90s that, as anyone who knew me at that time knows, I loathe and despise. Part of the reason for that is that it makes the same move: “He came from heaven to earth… from the earth to the cross… from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky.” This song is more blatant than the example above. In the statement above, it doesn’t say he went directly from resurrection to ascension; it just doesn’t explicitly mention the post-resurrection appearances. The song has him ascending straight from the grave.
As I thought about the omission, I realized how important these resurrection appearances are in my faith. Calling Mary by name in the garden, inviting Thomas to see his hands, offering breakfast on the shore and reinstating Peter, breaking bread with Cleopas and his companion after walking along the road to Emmaus, giving the great commission to the apostles, each of these is personal and specific. They are immediate and urgent and tender. They are all moments that resonate deeply with me, that help me process the rest of it, that guide me in knowing who Jesus is, that are a great part of the substance of my faith. Perhaps I put too much on these fleeting moments, but there it is. So when a person or a song or a creed (the Apostles’ Creed makes the same move, probably where the later versions emanate) says resurrection to ascension, I want to add “appeared to his disciples.” Maybe it’s implicit in the resurrection, and I’m the only one who needs the extra phrase.