The Seventh Sunday of Easter — Ascension Sunday
May 24, 2020 – Year A
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. Jesus’ time of preparing the disciples for his departure is here.
The Collect summarizes the events of this day — ascending not to an identified, visible place, but the Divine presence filling “all things,” especially the church on earth. Even in these days of being apart, Christ holds us together. We abide in him, as he abides in the Father. It is the divine Communion.
In the reading from Acts, Luke in “writing Theophilus,” sets the stage for the church’s birth. Jesus must take leave of being here, some way. The disciples are left, befuddled, staring up into heaven, as Luke tells it here. “Two men in white robes” (hint, angels), nudge them to listen to Jesus. He left. He’ll come again, and again, and again – until a day, when his glory fills all the earth, every knee bows and tongue confesses him Lord.
Paul reminds the Ephesians of the source of their power and salvation. The God of Jesus on earth, Jesus the Christ, risen from death, now ascended, is the Lord in whom the Father abides. That holy presence is a grace, a gift God offers and bestows as we assent and accept, grow into. The life of the Holy abides in us, the church, expressed through us for the sake of the world.
The Gospel of Luke places Jesus’ ascension at the end of Easter Day. He takes the remaining disciples out to Bethany, and they see him no more in his present form. They do as he instructs, returning to Jerusalem, to await the Spirit to empower them to carry Jesus’ mission into all the world — Jews and Gentiles, all who will listen and receive. As Jesus has opened the scripture of the Jewish Bible for them, as for the two on Emmaus’ road a bit earlier that day —Luke underscores that his life and their future is a continuation of God’s work to bring the Divine Light into all the world. Note their response — returning to Jerusalem with joy, and to the Temple to bless God. Now they wait.
In these stories, we see wonderments and hints that God’s new rule is beyond our comprehension, our logic. The community of Jesus’ followers, returning now with joy, yet without certainty of what has happened, or will happen. They’ll become empowered with God’s love and life, the “glue” holding us together as Christ’s Body. As in them, so in us, the Spirit of God fills us with the power to make disciples, teach, and baptize. If we think it’s our church, we can do this on our own, we fool ourselves. Jesus promises to be with us. Let’s not forget this promise, especially in these days in which we find ourselves. You are not alone.
Read the Collect, and pause to listen for God. Then read the First Lesson, the Response, the Epistle, and finally the Gospel. Give each a separate time, attentive to the words, expecting to hear what you need right now. And you will. Make room for God within. At the end of your reading and meditation, pray the words we say, “Thanks be to God!”
Blessings, love, and God’s keeping us in these days, Fr. Steve
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Omnes gentes, plaudite
1 Clap your hands, all you peoples; *
shout to God with a cry of joy.
2 For the Lord Most High is to be feared; *
he is the great King over all the earth.
3 He subdues the peoples under us, *
and the nations under our feet.
4 He chooses our inheritance for us, *
the pride of Jacob whom he loves.
5 God has gone up with a shout, *
the Lord with the sound of the ram’s-horn.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; *
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is King of all the earth; *
sing praises with all your skill.
8 God reigns over the nations; *
God sits upon his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the peoples have gathered together *
with the people of the God of Abraham.
10 The rulers of the earth belong to God, *
and he is highly exalted.
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Jesus said to his disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.