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Lent 8-our ascension

by Mike Anderson
Readings: Psalm 121, Isaiah 51:1-3, 2 Timothy 1:3-7

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.
Psalm 121, A Song of Ascents

While the suffering each of us faces takes many forms, one physical manifestation in my life is my regular bike ride up Capitol Hill. Tourists in cabs or those watching CSPAN can ignore the physical terrain, but for any bike rider, pedestrian, or runner, the hill part of Capitol Hill is readily apparent. As I heave and rock, I raise my eyes to the top of Capitol Hill, imagining myself at the top and no longer suffering. That simple act of looking up brings me hope and encourages me to persevere.

Yet Lent is not about the destination. It is an intentional journey through the desert. It is a reminder of the arduous path Jesus followed. He had to suffer on the cross and die in order to ascend to heaven. And thus, I found a prophetic inspiration from the title of Psalm 121: A Song of Ascents.

This psalm is about how God protects us on earth. There is nowhere outside of God’s domain, which is a comfort when you find yourself in the desert. Even when we sleep, God keeps watch.

However, to me, it is also about a Lenten journey that ends with salvation. It’s not just a song of ascent. It is a song of ascents, in plural. David isn’t prophetically writing about the ascension of Jesus. He is writing about his ascension, and my ascension, and your ascension. “The Lord will keep your life,” writes David. God shades us during our Lenten journey through the desert until we reach our destination. That destination is not in the desert and it’s not on the hill; it is in heaven.

Dear Lord in heaven, I place my faith in you that no matter what trials I face on earth, I know you are keeping watch over me. Thank you for the example of ultimate perseverance embodied by Jesus and the salvation his suffering granted me. Thank you for the courage to persevere, as my brothers and sisters of every race, gender, and identity have for generations, until the time of our ascension.

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