Chris Ganki on Ascension Day

Ascension means the church possesses an institutional otherworldliness that allows it to be a counter-cultural presence in the world. Its institutional centre is located in heaven. Christ the “head,” the founder and foundation of the church, does not occupy physical space on earth. As an institution, the church is ordered to an alternative economy. This economy, the kingdom of God, takes its direction from Jesus’s heavenly location where all things have been rearranged around him.

Clearly the church takes up real institutional space in the world, but not as the kind of institution that enters into a direct competitive relationship with other institutions. If Jesus, instead of ascending to heaven, had restored the kingdom to Israel, the church would have become an institution in competition with other institutions, most notably the Roman Empire. But ascension means Jesus is the King of kings. There is no real competition between Jesus and Caesar. That would assume they occupy the same kind of space and exercise the same kind of power, but they do not. Indeed there are conflicting allegiances that arise when Christians inhabit both kinds of institutions at the same time, which they always do. Through the centuries, believers have suffered the consequences of these conflicts through persecution and martyrdom. And yet despite these conflicts, the church does not have a zero-sum relationship with other institutions. The church is not trying to replace the state or the nonprofit. It’s not vying for the same kind of power, influence, and space as these institutions. Its relevance is not determined by how well it positions itself within the needs of the institutional landscape, but rather by how well it responds to its ascended Lord in heaven who sends it to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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