May 16, 2021
We apologize that we had issues with the live-stream on Youtube this Sunday. We are trying to resolve them before we celebrate Pentecost next week!
We were able to upload a video recording of the service later in the week after the live-stream quit mid-service. The whole thing is now available on our Youtube channel.
The seventh Sunday of Eastertide is sometimes also called Ascension Sunday. The Feast of the Ascension falls 40 days after Easter, which means it’s always on a Thursday; because of this, it can sometimes be an overlooked date on the Church calendar. But Christ’s Ascension is a very important part of the theological narrative of scripture and worth taking a closer look. May the Spirit open our hearts to the lessons of the Word:
- After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus was with the disciples for forty days (a Biblical number with great symbolism) before being taken up into heaven. How do you imagine the disciples felt to see Jesus truly leave them? Were they sad and afraid he was gone, or hopeful and excited about his eventual return and the coming of the Spirit?
- It seems even at the end, the disciples are still asking the ‘wrong’ question to some extent. Jesus has proved himself to be the true Messiah, even defeating death; so the disciples still expect him to “restore the kingdom of Israel” even though he has been teaching them about “the kingdom of God.” Are there times when Jesus hasn’t met your expectations? How is that challenging to your faith? How have you grown by having your assumptions about Jesus change?
- The scene of the Ascension in Acts is often compared to Christ’s Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20. How are they alike and different? In Matthew it’s: “Go and make disciples of all nations,” and in Acts it’s: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Where are you called to witness to Jesus right now? How do you do that?
- In our modern era, we have a different cosmology than the first century believers. If you were to ask them to draw the world, they would have shown you a flat plane with Sheol (the land of the dead) beneath and Heaven above the clouds and beyond the ‘firmament’ (that great King James translation of רָקִיעַ from Genesis 1:6). Thus, it made perfect sense for Jesus to “descend into hell and the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven” (part of the Apostles’ Creed we affirm each week). It’s no wonder that the Pope took issue with Galileo then when he proved that the Earth was not the center of the cosmos but rather changed our entire understanding of the universe! Where does that leave heaven? Where is Jesus’s resurrected body now? The truth is that these are still mysteries left to our theology, but it’s worth asking: What do we do when science and faith seem to conflict? How do we reconcile ancient beliefs with modern knowledge?
- After watching Jesus disappear, they are left looking up into the clouds. “Suddenly two men in white robes stood by them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven?” (These messengers seem similar to those at the tomb in Luke 24:4-6 who asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”) In a sense, it feels like the disciples are being told, “why are you standing around; it’s time to get to work!” The key question of the Ascension is ‘where is Jesus?’ We affirm that he is in heaven, interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34). But, where else do we find Jesus? In the sacraments, in the faces of those we love, when we are doing the work of the kingdom among the poor, Jesus is there with us through the Spirit. What work and witness are you being called to today? Where have you seen Jesus lately?
I pray the Christ who reigns over heaven and earth blesses you in this final week of Easter.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Maggie Rust