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An Ascension story

I will tell you an Ascension story.

In those days, he was the Deputy Attorney General of the United States. The stories of Amercian forces abusing Prisoners of War was coming out. He later wrote this --

“One evening after work in spring 2004, Patrice looked at me. She obviously knew I was involved in something that was wearing me down. She had seen all the media coverage of the treatment of captives. She simply said to me, “Torture is wrong. Don’t be the torture guy.” “What?” I protested. “You know I can’t talk about that stuff.” “I don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “Just don’t be the torture guy.” She would periodically repeat that admonition over the next year. 

The prospect of being the “torture guy” disturbed my sleep for many nights. I couldn’t get away from the mental pictures of naked men chained to the ceiling in a cold, blazingly lit cell for endless days, defecating in their diapers, unchained only to be further abused and convinced they were drowning, before being rechained.” (A Higher Loyalty, James Comey, 2018)

For me the Ascension says two things. First, Jesus Christ has ascended to the right hand of the Father. We ascend with him. His glory is our glory. We get to participate in the very life of God. God became human so that we might become God. As the third ancient creed put it – We are united to God “not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God.”

Two weeks ago at Evening prayer we said psalm 115. 

The heaven of heavens is the LORD'S, * but he entrusted the earth to its peoples. (Psalm 115:16)

That’s the second message of the Ascension – “he entrusted the earth to its peoples.” We are responsible. Stewardship isn’t about giving money to the parish – that’s called “giving money to the parish.” Stewardship is our responsibility for our life together – in our citizenship, with our family and friends, at work.  To live responsibly is to live in humility with a longing for holiness.

Jesus has Ascended, and we are left here -- We can respond with Blessed Evelyn,

         I am to glorify God in and through all the demands on my love, courage, and patience

In my Ascension story did you notice who is taking responsibility? We know that Jim Comey was struggling to be responsible in regard to the torture of prisoners. But in the story it is Patrice, his wife, who is the steward of her husband’s soul -- “Torture is wrong. Don’t be the torture guy.”

So, with good reason in the marriage liturgy we pray - Give them wisdom and devotion in the ordering of their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.  

Then there was what Jim Comey experienced.

“The prospect of being the “torture guy” disturbed my sleep for many nights. I couldn’t get away from the mental pictures of naked men chained to the ceiling …”

Sound familiar? 

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; … and (he) began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed.  (Matt 26)

Last week at Evening Prayer we prayed in the same vein-

I think of God, I am restless, *
I ponder, and my spirit faints.

You will not let my eyelids close; *
I am troubled and I cannot speak. …

I commune with my heart in the night; *  (Ps 77)

Most of us know that experience.  It’s not insomnia or simple restlessness or illness. It’s the faithful person seeking to do what is right. Sometimes we can’t sleep.

It’s a type of prayer – A form of reflection.  See the handout – the very bottom “Compassionate and responsible reflection.” 

In the prayer of reflection we will probably not realize we are praying. These times of pondering and contemplation just happen. The Spirit pays within us.  We are engaged by the Holy Spirit - the Paraclete, the Advocate. It may be weeks or even years later that we put the name to it – “prayer.”


How is it in such prayer that we guard against it being simply a manifestation of our bias and default mental models?  

In our tradition the guard is not magic (God will save me) but it is us putting ourselves in the pathways of grace

John Milton called us do all that we can to

    keep in tune with Heav’n, till God ere long /

   To His celestial concert us unite, /

   To live with Him, and sing in endless morn of light.

We keep in tune with Heaven – by the pattern of Eucharist, Office, self-examination, spiritual reading – we soak ourselves in grace. And so, we orient ourselves toward the ways of heaven.

The beginning of responsible action in life is prayer. The first step after Our Lord’s Ascension isn’t a church growth or social justice movement – it is prayer

And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 
and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
(Lk 24)

And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’
And the elders fell down and worshipped.
(Rev 5)




Becoming an Associate of the Order of the Ascension

Becoming a Professed Member of the Order of the Ascension