Years ago, I bought this cross on clearance at a Christian bookstore. It was a Christus Victor style Jesus in full superman pose, trying to fly off to save the world with a cross on his back. I thought it was hilarious, and it was simply too awesome to pass up. After all, it was on clearance!
It is an odd wall cross, maybe mixing too much symbolism. The Superman Jesus, I’m sure must be an ascending Jesus, so it just seems odd to have him on a cross. But at the same time, this cross is a reminder of what Jesus is and what Jesus most certainly is not.
I remember an exam question in a systematic theology class taught by the Rev. Dr. Katherine Sonderegger. I believe Man of Steel had recently released in theaters and she presented us with a scenario in which a youth in our youth group made the comparison between Superman and Jesus. How would we respond? At the heart of this exercise was the question: who is Jesus?
What a great exercise! A quick google image search for “Superman Jesus” generates some amazing and hilarious images. There’s a crown of thorns wearing Jesus photoshopped onto the body of Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel Superman. Another has a comic book Jesus sitting in the middle of the Hulk, Spiderman, and Captain America, saying to them, “…and that’s how I saved the world!” And finally, my favorite, the sacred heart Jesus revealing a superman undershirt. With any Superman Jesus image though, there is a temptation to reduce Jesus to a kind of superhero fixer, and even worse, simply a means to an end.
The Feast of the Ascension is one of the seven Principal Feasts of the Episcopal Church. In the Roman Catholic Church, it is considered a Holy Day of Obligation and one is required to go to mass. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Ascension is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the liturgical year and is known as Analepsis, the “taking up.” All this to say: the Feast of the Ascension is important and we should take note.
The Ascension is the hinge event for the Lukan narrative. The Gospel of Luke ends with the Ascension and the Acts of the Apostles begins with it. At one point, the disciples were troubled when Jesus told them he would be leaving them and now they are filled with joy. This seems to be the moment the disciples begin to understand the teachings and promises of Jesus. They begin to understand the full ramifications of the resurrection of Jesus. Their doubts and fears are gone and they step forward in their faith with a new joy and confidence.
In being taken up, Jesus is no longer bound by time and space. Jesus promises the disciples that he will be present to them in a new way, through the Holy Spirit. Jesus is Lord of all of creation, and we come to know that love is the most powerful force throughout all of God’s creation.
The Ascension paints for us a fuller picture of Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity. The cross and resurrection are not just a means to an end. Jesus is not simply a superhero fixer that comes in to save the day. Instead, the ascended Jesus is the fulfillment of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus is present with us in all things, walking with us through all the graces and challenges of this life.
And so, we have hope in the promises of Jesus, in particular his promise of the Holy Spirit that is to come and is with us in this day and age. On this Feast of the Ascension, explore with your kiddos, family and community how Jesus is present in all things and in all people. Have hope, be joyful, and declare the blessings of God to the world!
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
What does it mean to you that Jesus is present in all things and in all people?
How does that affect our relationships with friends, family and strangers?
How is Jesus Lord to you?