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A Reflection and a Poem for Ascension Day

Some time ago, I was on a hike with a group of friends. Eventually we reached the peak, and after a short time of taking in the view, we turned and started back down the mountain.

On the way down, I was having trouble with my knee and began to lag behind the group. Everything was going fine until about halfway down. All alone, with the rest of the group no longer in sight, I came to a fork in the trail. Without much to go on, I said a prayer, chose a path, and started following it down the mountain. It wasn’t long before the path I had chosen became obscure. With the sun starting to set, it was too late to turn around, so I forged on. As the path further disintegrated, a sense of panic began to set in. I started climbing over fallen logs and jagged rocks with no clear sense of direction.

I was lost.

After forty-five minutes, I had stumbled my way down through the thick forest to a deserted road. Still disoriented, I followed the road for a while and eventually found the parking lot where my friends were waiting for me with looks of concern and relief.

Too often in life, we get lost.

Sometimes we get lost because of a sudden circumstance beyond our control. It’s as if we get pushed into a wilderness. Sometimes we make a decision to go one way instead of another at a fork in the road. But sometimes we get lost in a more subtle way. Rather than with a sudden circumstance or a bad decision, we get lost by putting one foot in front of the other, day after day. We get lost in routine and stop paying attention to the important and the essential. Getting lost in this way is like a slow drift from the shore: we don’t notice right away, but after a while we look around and feel unsure of where we are and how we got there.

By circumstance, decision, or neglecting the essentials, human beings tend to get lost. But all this talk about “lostness” presupposes something. It assumes a center, a place of belonging and purpose, a place to wander from and come back to.

Jesus said to his disciples in John 14:1–4, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

At the center of the universe, there is a home.

God’s home is big, with enough room for everyone. On Ascension Sunday, we celebrate Jesus rising to heaven to sit on the throne at the right hand of God. But that throne isn’t on an asteroid floating through space somewhere. The throne sits in a grand room in a very grand house. Jesus goes there to sit on the throne but also to take up one of his favorite passions: interior decorating. Jesus ascends to prepare a place for us. To prepare a room is to get it ready with fresh sheets, fluffed-up pillows, chocolate mints on the nightstand, and a handwritten note of welcome with some instructions about how to connect to the Wi-Fi. But it’s even more than a nice hotel room. It’s all that, but with a personalized touch—a room just for you.

Ascension Sunday is about Jesus returning to sit on the throne as the exalted king. He came down, took on human flesh, lived, died and rose again. He ends up where he started: on the throne. But now he bears the marks of his human journey with him; now he is a wounded king. He goes to get our rooms ready to welcome his wounded children finding their place of belonging in the house of God.

But we get lost.

It happens in lots of ways, and it happens over and over again. In our lostness, we get wounded, and we often wound those who care about and love us the most.

At the center of the universe, there is a home.

Our truest destiny is not to wander around with a sense of dread in an unfamiliar forest. The call of Jesus is to follow him as he leads us through the darkest valleys of life, past our enemies as he feeds us at his table of grace, anoints our heads with oil, prepares a room for us, and leads us home, wounds and all.

GOD LIVES

God lives in a holy house with silver mounted high.
The throne is draped with flowing cloth soaked rich in purple dye.
The walls are adorned with onyx, fine turquoise frames the view,
the floor is made of marble, the kitchen shines like new.
Bronze will greet you at the entrance, while ceilings stately soar.
Halls are guarded by cedar beams and metal holds the door.

God lives in a humble home with flowers on the sill. T
here’s a worn and beloved chair where stories from mouths spill.
Family photos in the hallway, lace curtains frame the view,
cookies in the cupboard and the walls are painted blue.
Lavender kindly waves while your heart starts to sing.
A wooden sign says “Welcome, friend”; porch light is beckoning.

— Sam Gutierrez, based on 1 Chronicles 22:14 / Psalm 84:3

Rev. Sam Gutierrez is a California native. Graduated from Dordt College with a degree in graphic design, he has worked as a youth pastor, a resident director, a campus pastor, and spiritual formation catalyst. He completed his MDiv at Western Theological Seminary. Sam is currently serving as a pastor of community and discipleship at Alger Park Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is married to Kelly and enjoys coffee, drawing, poetry, comic books, and pizza. His work can be found at printandpoem.com.