Christians in the early church stressed the importance of Jesus’ ascension by including it in both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. But churches today tend to gloss over Ascension Sunday. Sandwiched between Easter and Pentecost (after having already endured the long days of Lent), we’re too tired to work up special music and decor. Not to mention that the story is rather strange—Jesus goes up into a cloud. What?
But the early church viewed Jesus’ ascension as its call to action. After the Resurrection, Jesus spends forty days with his followers, proving he has indeed overcome death and “speaking about the kingdom of God.” Jesus encourages his followers to “wait . . . for the promise of the Father.” More power is on the way—the power of the Holy Spirit!
And as different as the day’s political kingdom is from the kingdom of God, so too will be the work of the Holy Spirit when the mission kicks into high gear. The Spirit will guide the disciples whether they are in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, or the ends of the earth.
This passage closes with Jesus’ ascension. Again, the disciples seem confused, staring up into the clouds. Two men in white robes inquire, “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” It’s a good question and one we must ask ourselves. Are we looking toward heaven, or are we looking for mission opportunities? Will we be ready to act when the Spirit nudges us? Let us pray so, as we move from promise to fulfillment.
Holy Spirit, help us to wait, to see, and to act. Amen.
Scripture tells us that in our lives in general, and especially in our spiritual lives, we need to distinguish what is true from what is false. The psalmist admonishes us to follow the truth of God and flee wicked ideas. This week we read about Judas, who did not follow the psalmist’s advice—with disastrous results. In Acts the apostles seek to replace Judas among their number with a witness to Jesus who has not been led astray. In John’s Gospel, Jesus bemoans the loss of Judas and prays that his followers will cling to his words. The author of First John testifies that God’s words are trustworthy above all others. They bear witness to the life that comes through Christ, whose legitimacy was confirmed by his ascension into heaven.
• Read Acts 1:15-17, 21-26. When have you experienced the disruption of a meaningful relationship through death? How did you eventually recover?
• Read Psalm 1. When have you allowed the world to define you? How do you avoid that?
• Read 1 John 5:9-13. How have you come to know the testimony of God in your heart?
• Read John 17:6-19. What helps you sense God’s presence and protection?
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