Moving On Up by Fran Salone-Pelletier

Norman Lear’s classic American sitcom All in the Family introduced audiences to the character of Archie Bunker, along with his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and neighbors. Archie’s overt prejudices revealed an ignorance shared but hidden in the lives of everyday Americans. The canned laughter gave little evidence of the mixed emotions that ran through the real-life families who were watching—groups of people who struggled mightily, or not at all, with the discomfort they felt when faced with their own concretized opinions and callous outrage.

Archie represented the “lowest” middle-class America of his day. He could not understand how his Black neighbor, George Jefferson, could succeed while he—loyalist, law-abiding Archie Bunker—remained in a stolid status quo, ensconced in his well-worn easy chair. How could a Black man who owned a cleaners be the chosen one? How could he be “movin’ on up to the deluxe apartment in the sky?”

For his part, George saw ascendancy as one of power, prestige, and position for himself and his wife, Weezy. He delighted in the opportunity to use this move as a weapon against the Archie Bunkers of the world and as an instrument to enter the caste of the upper crust. Ascension meant upward mobility. It demanded distance from a disdainful past, detachment from all that could taint progress, and deliberate entry into the good life. George was well prepared to comply, despite the protests of his wife, who had a different sense of life’s reality.

And so we laughed at his and Archie’s loud protestations and buffoonery. We laughed despite ourselves. Truth be told, apparent growth and enlightenment over the years belies the fact that little change has actually occurred. For most of us, ascension still means that we are somehow “movin’ on up to the deluxe apartment in the sky.”

That meaning colors our religious beliefs as well as our social and economic status. We remain stuck, as the disciples were, standing in place and looking intently at the sky to find a clouded Jesus being taken from our sight. We seek a heavenly hereafter at the price of the divine incarnation to be found on earth, in all creation. We ignore the Christ who is with us on our search for the Christ who will be. We look to the time when we will “move on up” to a land of milk and honey, where there are no tears nor mourning. In the process, we neither recognize nor realize the ascension that occurs within our spirit here and now.

Blinded to that reality, we forget the reason why we are here. We forget the reason that Jesus the Christ chose to become one of us. We forget that the power of ascendancy lies within us as inspirited human beings—people endowed with and baptized into the indomitable Holy Spirit of God. That is our ascension, our resurrection, and our eternal life.

We can live this life anywhere and everywhere. We are neither bound by our precious armchairs nor our prestigious apartments. Gender, race, creed, culture are not deterrents. Whether free or imprisoned, we are urged to “live in a manner worthy of the call [we] have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as [we] were also called to the one hope . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:1-6).

How we live our ascension is both gift and choice. Some of us have been given the grace to be apostles. Others may be prophets or evangelists, pastors and teachers. God is already moving us up to our deluxe apartment, but the abode is not to be discovered later, in the sky above. God has selected and measured the space uniquely for us. It is ready for use right here, right now, on this planet we occupy. This is the home in which we will attain the full stature of Christ!

Going to church on Sunday is not enough. Looking to the sky for God is not enough. Skimming the surface of life is not enough. Remaining stuck in an armchair existence is not enough, nor is residing in affluent ascendancy. We have a call to hear and heed.

We will understand the meaning of ascension when we go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. That does not mean that each of us will have to don a missionary’s robe and run to find a pagan somewhere to convert. It does mean that each of us must find and convert the pagan unbeliever who lives within our own heart and home. Every bias and prejudice we harbor needs to be unveiled, condemned, and destroyed. Every moment used for alienation, isolation, exclusion needs to be converted to a time of acceptance, embrace, and inclusion. We need to drive out our own demons before we address those of others.

Each of us must continually baptize ourselves with God’s spirit of love. We must incarnate our belief that God’s good news is alive in all people. We must meet people where they are, honoring and revering them as they are and not as we wish them to be. We must speak in new languages, universal tongues that tell of justice and truth, peace and freedom.

While we are ascending to those divine heights, we will also, without harm, be able to pick up the serpents of pride and prejudice, fear and frustration, anger and animosity, greed and gluttony. Fearlessly, we will demonstrate their powerlessness in the face of goodness. We will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover—not because of our holiness, but in the graciousness of God who saves us from ourselves.

When we think of the Ascension, we cannot be people who stand in the muck and mire of life. We cannot be people who wait to see what God will do without ever entering into the being and action of incarnation.

Signs of God’s existence are to be found in all creation. People of the Ascension need to attend to the God who works with us, within us, through us. We need to seek and see the signs by which God confirms the divine word of Christ through life in us. Only then will we truly be on the Way, “movin’ on up to the deluxe apartment in the sky”! ♦

Fran Salone-Pelletier holds a master’s degree in theology. She is the author of a trilogy of scriptural meditations, Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives, from which this selection is taken. She is also a religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer, and grandmother of four. Reach her at

Image: Andreas Ritzos, Detail from Icon of the Ascension of Christ with Hetoimasia, 15th c.

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